National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version

Spring 2007


Published in Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council 8:1, Spring/Summer 2007. Copyright © 2007 by the National Collegiate Honors Council.


In a national education system that seems bound by numbers more than ever before—witness proficiency testing in K–12 and the absolute reign of GPAs and standardized tests on the college level—we may still find creative ways to mitigate their deleterious effects on our honors students and programs. In this essay I have tried to explore the issues swirling around our decisions on how we use numbers. Now I would distill my personal views in the following list of principles:

• Unless you can emancipate your program, or part of it, from grades, scores, and credit hours, use the numbers, but balance them with other information as a reality check.

• Be realistic in attuning your numbers standards to the population you serve, your honors traditions, and your institutional culture, and don’t be apologetic about doing so, regardless of supposed national “benchmarks.”

• Honor and pay attention to the individual student.

• Err on the side of generosity—take a risk on admitting an interesting underachiever, and give students a second chance to meet your retention requirements.

Our use of numbers is a complex issue that deserves ongoing research and discussion as we devise and then continue to question our policies and procedures. We may depend on numbers, but they must not tyrannize us.