Date of this Version
A survey of the second edition of Peterson’s Honors Programs reveals that a variety of honors programs and colleges around the country employ the honors contract as one mechanism whereby students may earn honors course credit. Although there is no uniform definition of what a contract entails, one common approach is the completion of a paper, project, or other assignment in addition to a non-honors course’s requirements. Of the 360 listings in the Peterson’s guide, at least 43 public, private, two-year, and four-year programs and colleges choose to mention contracting in their listings. Contracting, therefore, appears to provide a prominent and much needed solution to the ever-present problem of providing sufficient opportunities for students to earn their required honors course credits. In smaller honors programs, for example, contracting may provide one of the primary opportunities for completing honors requirements. In larger programs, contracting may enable participation in honors from students in academic disciplines in which few stand-alone honors courses are offered. Whatever the size or budget of the honors program, it is clear that contracting remains a staple in the honors experience for many students. But the question remains: Does contracting really measure up to the expectations of the honors experience? That question has been debated at Texas Tech University, and, as with any good debate, there are multiple perspectives, each with compelling arguments and evidence in the form of student, faculty, and administrator experiences with contracts. This article outlines the problems with contracting that developed over several years at Texas Tech University, comments on the process by which solutions were identified, and presents the solutions that were created.