ERIC Identifier: ED353007
Publication Date: 1984-02-00
Author: Not Listed
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Junior Colleges Los
Community College Honors Program. ERIC Digest.
Honors programs are not a major part of the community college curriculum. In
the attempt to provide access to a wide range of non-traditional students,
community colleges as a whole have inadvertently paid little attention to the
academically gifted student. Furthermore, some community college educators have
objected to what they feel is the inherent elitism of college honors programs.
Olivas (1975) notes, for example, that uneasiness about elitism may be
responsible, at least in part, for the lack of research on community college
honors curricula (p. 1). Nonetheless, Olivas also observes that "the development
of honors opportunities for gifted students in two-year colleges is a ...
fledgling attempt to educate one constituency in an extremely heterogeneous
student population. The mandate of two-year colleges to cultivate all available
talent by extending additional opportunity to all who seek it suggests that
there are no entangling precedents to preclude the development of honors
programs if they be warranted" (p. 12).
Indeed, since 1975, community college honors programs have received growing
attention. Friedlander (1982) notes several reasons for this:
-the growing number of community college students who can benefit from such
-enhanced college efforts to strengthen the quality of academic programs,
particularly in the area of general education;
-the recognition that honors programs help attract and retain outstanding
students and faculty; and
-the fact that honors programs can enhance the college's public image and
Thus, honors programs serve the dual purpose of meeting the needs of a
significant segment of the two-year college student body and of meeting
increased public demand for educational quality.
HOW ARE COMMUNITY COLLEGE HONORS PROGRAMS STRUCTURED?
his 1975 survey of the nation's community colleges, Olivas found that only 47 of
the 644 responding institutions had honors programs with formalized academic and
administrative structures. The vast majority (73%), however, indicated that "while they did not have formalized academic and administrative honors programs,
they did have honors elements for those students with demonstrated superior
ability" (p. 4). Such elements include honors classes, guest speakers, credit by
examination, achievement-based financial aid, honor rolls, honor societies, and
honors advisory committees. Olivas also found that 125 institutions had no
honors elements at all.
WHAT TYPES OF HONORS PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES ARE IN USE AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES?
Since Olivas' study, no comprehensive national
surveys of community college honors programs have been conducted. Research
undertaken by the Center for the Study of Community Colleges in 1982, however,
details the honors activities at six large, urban community college districts
(Friedlander, 1982; "Transfer, Honors, and Excellence...," 1982). These
activities include the Dean's Scholar Program at Wright College in Chicago, the
Advanced Arts and Sciences Program at Chicago's Loop College, the Honor's
Scholar Program at Richland College (Dallas Community College District), and
additional honors programs at West Los Angeles College (Los Angeles Community
College District), at the Maricopa Community College District in Arizona, and at
Miami-Dade Community College in Florida. Several approaches are used by these
colleges to meet the needs of the ablest and most highly motivated students.
-SPECIAL COURSE SECTIONS. A common approach to honors instruction is the
development of special sections for general education and occupational courses.
In these special sections, honors students might read additional primary
material, cover subject material in greater depth, or write additional papers.
Special sections are usually small classes that allow students to work with
others of similar ability.
-IN-CLASS HONORS OPTIONS. Colleges without separate honors courses often
allow students to earn honors credit in a course by completing additional
activities. In some cases, instructors add an honors addendum to the course
syllabus or require students to complete a course evaluation plan (CEP). The CEP
is a contractual agreement requiring the student to perform special assignments
that might include library research, field projects, or class presentations. The
CEP normally specifies how the student's work will be evaluated.
-INTERDISCIPLINARY INSTRUCTION. Some colleges provide honors students with
special interdisciplinary , team-taught courses that cover two or more
disciplines. A similar approach is the provision of a cross-disciplinary set of
concurrent honors courses. At Miami-Dade Community College, for example, honors
students majoring in science can take a set of courses covering the history of
science, English composition, and the humanities. The courses carry nine credits
and are taught by an interdisciplinary team of professors.
-HONORS COLLOQUIA. Some colleges coordinate the honors program with a
visiting lecture series. In one approach to this coordination, a special honors
course is built around a series of lectures given by distinguished scholars who
are invited to the campus. In another approach, honors students enrolled in
different courses attend guest lectures as part of their course work. Guest
lectures also conduct special seminars, workshops, and conferences for honors
-SPECIAL ACTIVITIES. Besides actual course work, honors programs often
include social activities, recognition banquets, and opportunities for special
research. This research may be part of the work prepared for a special honors
seminar; it may also take the form of an independent study project that is
coordinated by faculty advisors.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF FACULTY IN HONORS PROGRAMS?
instructors participating in honors programs at the urban community colleges do
so on a voluntary basis. Instructors interested in converting a course to an
honors course usually submit a proposal to the academic dean, to a curriculum
committee, and to a college honors committee. At some colleges individual
faculty members also serve as mentors for honors students whose interests
correspond with their own.
WHAT ABOUT ADMISSIONS CRITERIA?
entering an honors program must have 1) an ACT score of 25 or more or a combined
score of 1100 on the SAT and 2) a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.5
in high school or college. In addition, some colleges require prospective
students to undergo an interview with members of the college's honors committee.
Usually, students are required to maintain a minimum grade point average and to
complete a specified number of honors courses to remain in the program.
WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF HONORS STUDENTS AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES?
There is little research on the characteristics of community
college honors students. In one study that has been conducted (Day, 1982), the
Maricopa Community College District found that of its 194 honors students, 65.5%
were women, most were younger than the district population as a whole, and only
12 were non-white. Although 50% of the honors students were interested in
obtaining transfer credit, 28.4% were interested in occupational programs and
21.6% were interested in the general education curriculum.
The Maricopa data point to the necessity of gearing honors programs to
non-traditional and vocational students, as well as to traditional transfer
students. It is on this point--the necessity of serving all students in the
comprehensive curriculum--that community college honors programs will differ
from those at four-year institutions.
Astin, A. W. FOUR CRITICAL YEARS. San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers Inc., 1977.
Campion, William J. "Serving the Gifted and Talented." COMMUNITY AND JUNIOR
COLLEGE JOURNAL. 1981, 51 (6), 30-31.
Day, Mary. CHARACTERISTICS OF HONORS STUDENTS. MARICOPA COMMUNITY COLLEGES,
SPRING 1981-82. REPORT NO. 82-6. Phoenix, AZ: Maricopa County Community College
District, 1982. 12pp. (ED 223 269)
EMPHASIS ON EXCELLENCE. Miami, FL: Miami-Dade Community College, 1980. 14pp.
(ED 198 840)
Farnsworth, Kent A. "Addressing the Needs of the Highly Talented." COMMUNITY
AND JUNIOR COLLEGE JOURNAL, 1981-82, 52 (4), 32-33.
Friedlander, Jack. HONORS PROGRAMS IN COMMUNITY COLLEGES. Los Angeles, CA:
Center for the Study of Community Colleges, 1982. 12pp. (ED 220 166)
Olivas, Michael A. A STATISTICAL PORTRAIT OF HONORS PROGRAMS IN TWO-YEAR
COLLEGES. Unpublished paper, 1975. 16pp. (ED 221 257)
TRANSFER, HONORS, AND EXCELLENCE: SIX DISTRICTS SPOTLIGHTED. Los Angeles, CA: Center for the Study of Community Colleges, 1982. 6pp. (ED 221 257)