National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Honors in Practice, Volume 8.


Copyright © 2012 National Collegiate Honors Council


University honors colleges and programs come in many shapes and sizes, but one commonality exists: orientation around the completion of a group or series of courses. In some cases, the required courses are honors versions of regularly offered courses, and each semester honors students are able to choose from among those offered. In other cases, the core honors courses are designed to form a sequence, beginning in the first semester and often progressing to a senior thesis or capstone project.

Regardless of the structure, many honors programs face the challenge of designing a program that students can successfully complete in four years. This problem is especially acute at a time when university budgets are being cut; because honors courses are typically smaller than their non-honors counterparts, administrators may be tempted to reduce the number of honors sections offered to balance their shrinking budgets. While the Slippery Rock University Honors Program has been fortunate to have strong support from our administrators, our honors students have frequently expressed frustration at the difficulty of completing the program’s academic requirements. In response, we recently took a hard look at the course-oriented structure of our program. In that process, we re-envisioned the program by focusing on the characteristics of some of our most successful honors students: they have diverse academic interests; they participate in international experiences; they have engaged in successful research/creative activities; and they are involved in leadership roles. We then restructured the program in a way that we hope will lead to the development of these valuable characteristics in all our honors students. The result is an outcome-based approach to honors education that is centered on Honors Option Points (HOPs, for short) rather than one that follows the traditional model of honors coursework.