Honors college should expand offerings for upperclassmen

Honors college should expand offerings for upperclassmen

The University of Alabama Honors College is a major selling point for potential UA students. The University specifically advertises a community learning experience that extends throughout students’ college careers, allowing them to explore areas outside of their majors and sharpen critical thinking skills. High-achieving high school students are drawn toward this program because the University advertises a community for students who are academically oriented and want to broaden their horizons.

Alabama offers 23 sections of UH 210 courses, or University Honors Fine Arts courses. 10 of those 23 sections were closed to Honors upperclassmen and designated as “Honors Year One” courses for the Fall 2017 semester. Though Honors students have plenty of options when it comes to choosing their courses, it is nonsensical to not allow upperclassmen to explore every topic available to them outside of their major.

In order to graduate with an Honors degree, students must complete 18 hours of honors courses, be it through Honors sections of core classes or Honors Foundation courses. At least 6 hours out of the 18 total hours must come from these Honors Foundation courses. However, due to the nuances of registration, it can be difficult for upperclassmen to enroll in those courses, specifically in 200+ level University Honors, or “UH” classes.

Honors enrollment has increased steadily over the years, and the freshman graduating class has higher enrollment than any other class. It objectively makes sense to rope off courses specifically for them because they register last and should be able to take honors courses if they so desire. 

However, UH 100 is specifically designated as “Honors Year One.” Instead of depriving upperclassmen of courses they are genuinely interested in, add more sections of UH 210 courses and nest them under the UH 100 label. Better yet, open the classes to all and allow for larger class sizes. Simply adding 10 more slots to each section adds 230 more seats for upper-level honors students in UH 210 alone.

Honors upperclassmen should not be punished for choosing to focus on their core curriculum during their first semesters at the Capstone. Making sections closed to upperclassmen decreases the number of opportunities to get the UH credits they need. Honors classes are small in size and high in demand. The economics works out in favor of those who are accredited freshmen, even though they have less experience within the college and later registration times. 

Should the University choose to open upper level honors sections to all Honors College students, it would be beneficial to all, even though it would be more difficult for freshmen to take honors courses. Upperclassmen can be excellent mentors to underclassmen who get into honors sections, assisting with the transition into the college workload. 

A classroom that is diverse in terms of life experience is one that has more meaningful discussions. Students go through major development as they transition into college life, and allowing freshmen to have more opportunities to learn from those who have been there will expand their worldview and provide a more enriching experience.

An honors education should allow students to explore areas uncommon to the typical classroom experience. The University has partly accomplished this by offering sections on everything from Star Wars to protest to public service. When the University makes certain sections freshman-only, it deprives the other older classes of the broadest possible scope of learning. 

It is more expensive to provide more honors courses, but Honors College students are truly passionate about learning, not just passing classes. They genuinely want to learn and grow from some of the best professors on campus and that doesn’t end when we move out of freshman year. Retention rates will soar if the University puts more resources into honors upperclassmen. 

Honors students are great assets to the University. They further honors recruitment in the future by volunteering, put forth more effort to the advancement of the University and the student body, and are the statistic that will set UA apart from other institutions. They are well worth the investment. 

Emma Royal is a sophomore majoring in aerospace engineering. Her column runs biweekly. 

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