National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



JNCHC: Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council (Spring/Summer 2023) 24(1): 57-80

Forum essays on "Regime change in honors"

Journal editor Ada Long, University of Alabama at Birmingham

ISBN 978-1-945001-19-2 | ISSN 1559-0151


Copyright 2023, NCHC. Used by permission


Centered on superiority over a certain group or individual, discrimination becomes predominant in prestigious institutions that pride themselves on exclusivity. Collegiate honors programs tend to deepen this practice by creating highly elite spaces accessible only to a select few. This rigidity can lead to an underrepresentation of historically marginalized groups, students who often lack the necessary resources for achieving academic excellence. This case study examines the ways honors programs inadvertently perpetuate discrimination among different social identities. Using inductive interviewing of honors students (n = 12) to gauge individual perceptions of program diversity, researchers rely on content analysis to generate four themes (relationship, discrimination, exclusion, conformity). By cross-analyzing participant responses with social identities, key programmatic components that may have led to covert systemic bias are uncovered. Results further indicate a possible link between a student’s racial identity and their sense of belonging within the program, with people of color reporting more instances of “othering” and discrimination. This study reveals a pressing need for increasing access to honors for minority students and improving the level of integration and retention among students currently enrolled.