National Collegiate Honors Council


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From: The Demonstrable Value of Honors Education: New Research Evidence, edited by Andrew J. Cognard-Black, Jerry Herron, and Patricia J. Smith. (Lincoln, NE: NCHC, 2019). Copyright 2019 by National Collegiate Honors Councils.


The pressure is on, and growing greater when it comes to defining, disseminating, and defending the value of higher education generally and the reasons for funding it (Harnisch 2011). Complaints abound regarding the rising costs of higher education, and many legislators and the public are demanding accountability. Funding cuts are forcing many colleges and universities to prioritize and to evaluate what merits support and what does not. As a part of a large array of undergraduate programs, honors programs and honors colleges face increasingly greater pressure to justify their existence.

That said, honors programs and colleges are in a good position to make a case for the value that honors adds to institutional outcomes. Honors education is known nationally and internationally for leadership in high-quality undergraduate programs. Honors faculty enjoy the opportunity to create unique and innovative learning environments, with academically talented undergraduate students as the immediate beneficiaries. Institutions benefit from recruitment of ambitious, motivated students who typically have higher retention and graduation rates when compared to those in the traditional student population. Yet despite these obvious institutional benefits, questions persist regarding the value that honors adds and how precisely that value is to be measured.