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Every year the number of honors colleges across the country increases. Most of these new colleges emerge out of pre-existing honors programs, an origin that suggests that the change reflects an interest in raising the public profile of honors education at a particular institution. Sometimes this transformation entails only a cosmetic name change; other times, institutions take the opportunity to review what they are providing in honors education and how they might enhance it.
The Executive Committee of the National Collegiate Honors Council recognized that the NCHC ought to take a strong interest in this phenomenon. If an institution is simply gilding the name, then “honors college” becomes a devalued misnomer designed as a marketing strategy and intended to mislead potential applicants into believing that something new exists where, in fact, substance remains unchanged. Passive acceptance of this trend also does a disservice to those exceptional honors programs that resist playing the name change game because they deem that their program as it stands serves their institution well. Nonetheless, four-year programs at universities face increasing competitive pressure to enter the collegiate game.