National Collegiate Honors Council


Honors Colleges as Levers of Educational Equity

Teagan Decker, University of North Carolina at Pembroke
Joshua Kalin Busman, University of North Carolina at Pembroke
Michele Fazio, University of North Carolina at Pembroke

Copyright 2023, National Collegiate Honors Council. Used by permission


While higher education is widely imagined as a tool for social mobility, the realities of enrollment, retention, and professional trajectories betray the conservative mechanisms through which higher education too often reproduces the status quo of inequality. Honors colleges can and should strive to act as levers of equity in this scenario of entrenchment, but the nature of this project varies depending on the institution’s own class position vis-à-vis its students. Elite, highly selective institutions may advocate for enrollment strategies that target student populations that do not typically attend those institutions, but other institutions likely already enroll such students in large numbers. These “lower tier” institutions, such as community colleges and regional universities, have a responsibility to act as “stewards of place” through “clear and ongoing commitments to the local K-12 school systems where they reside,” as well as to providing “access to regional students via bridge programs, admissions and financial aid,” especially including “access for local first generation and underrepresented students” (Saltmarsh et al.). Such institutions have the capacity to make a significant impact on students’ personal and professional trajectories, and honors colleges at these institutions are uniquely positioned to serve as levers of equity in higher education.