National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version


Document Type

Book Chapter


Miller, K.A., ed. 2020. Building Honors Contracts: Insights and Oversights. National Collegiate Honors Council Monograph Series. pp 81-101.


Copyright © 2020 by National Collegiate Honors Council.


In the first chapter of this volume, Richard Badenhausen argues that contract courses have often suffered from ambiguous or homogenous expectations, compromising honors pedagogy and learning. Anecdotally, not many positive attributes have been ascribed to contract courses in the honors community. Contracts often require more work than courses to establish and administer to completion. Given the shortcomings and the amount of work required to implement contract courses successfully, why are they used at all? I argue that, in some cases, contract courses—or non-honors courses that move beyond regular course requirements with agreed-upon independent study work mentored by the professor—are the best option for small honors programs. At institutions where dedicated upperdivision honors classes could not meet institutional enrollment minima, contracts can be used to create access to honors education that would otherwise be unavailable. Further, the advantages of contracts can be leveraged even as their disadvantages are mitigated to a large degree, particularly through high-touch, proactive advising practices, in order to improve the quality of the honors experience for students. At a small honors program, contract courses can be a cost-effective means of providing access to a valuable and customized honors experience for students.