Date of this Version
Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 2017), pp 235-260.
In the autumn of 2014, the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) launched the Admissions, Retention, and Completion Survey (ARC) in an attempt to collect for the first time honors program benchmarking data on important admissions, persistence, and completion metrics, data that are already widely used throughout higher education generally. The ARC survey is part of NCHC’s ongoing effort to collect such data, which began in 2012 with the first iteration of what has come to be known as the NCHC Census, an omnibus survey asking a wide range of questions about honors administrative practices, curricular offerings, basic staffing, and the characteristics of honors directors and deans. While these surveys do not examine honors relative to the larger institutional contexts within which honors programs are located, the data emerging from the surveys allow us to begin identifying the extent of variation among key features of honors programs. The survey results have special value to the honors administrators who serve the approximately 350,000 honors students enrolled at NCHC member institutions. Results from the 2012–13 survey revealed differences especially between honors colleges and honors programs in terms of faculty and administrative resources and in the delivery of their programs (Scott), but they also revealed a substantial degree of similarity across honors programs and colleges in the provision of specific elements of curricular programming such as undergraduate research and senior-level capstone experiences (Cognard-Black and Savage). Data resulting from the 2012–13 NCHC survey allowed us to paint a more complete picture of honors nationally, but the final version of that survey did not include any items tapping into honors admissions practices or the measures of persistence and completion that have come to dominate discussions of higher education in the last decade. While limitations and risks are associated with restricting our discussions to measures like four- and six-year graduation rates (Humphreys) or with the very process of deciding what and how to measure and incentivize (Guzy; Portnoy), we have had little data in honors to even start such discussions. The NCHC ARC survey is one of the first large-scale attempts to begin to fill that gap.