The Miami University Honors Program (UHP) is undergoing some changes that may affect the program’s retention rates.
Kari Taylor, associate director of student development for the UHP, said it is still too early to tell how these changes will impact retention rates, but they could increase retention because there are now fewer requirements to meet.
Honors students have originally had to complete honors experiences, which are approved learning opportunities such as honors courses, that allow students to fulfill certain learning outcomes. Students are required to write reflections about their learning experiences and add these reflections to an e-portfolio.
According to Taylor, the program’s ability to facilitate its e-portfolio requirements has taken a hit with the departure of an assistant director in August and an associate director in December. Since there are fewer staff members to support the 1,700 honors students, the program has had to scale back some of its requirements.
The UHP now requires students to write fewer reflections, a decision based partially on the reduced staff size and partially because students did not consider their e-portfolio entries a meaningful component of the honors experience, Taylor said.
Junior honors student Karli Grazman agreed the reflections were not the most useful aspect of the program.
“I was going into the honors program with these expectations of writing 23 e-portfolio entries,” Grazman said. “I kind of want that, but practically speaking, I need time…It’s time that I could make, but it would be extremely stressful.”
The UHP has been retaining students at high rates, according to the program’s Annual Assessment Report for the 2011-2012 school year, with 79 percent of the Class of 2013, 86 percent of the Class of 2014 and 97 percent of the Class of 2015 still in the program as of last school year.
According to the report, the main reasons students dropped the program include wanting to devote more time to curricular and co-curricular activities, wanting to focus on major requirements and wanting a more structured approach to education. However, sophomore Jeff Townsend said he plans to stay in the program because of perks such as living in the honors dorms, not having to fulfill Miami Plan requirements and priority registration. He also said he likes taking honors classes.
“The cluster and being in a couple Honors classes is nice because the classes are smaller and maybe a little more challenging,” Townsend said.
Taylor said another factor driving the retention rates is that way the program has honors students fulfill the liberal education requirements. Prior to four years ago, students completed the Global Miami Plan and added honors onto that. Now, if they drop the program, they may not be able to graduate on time because they would have to complete the Global Miami Plan courses that were not required of them as honors students.
Grazman expressed some frustration with the changing requirements.
“They’ve changed the requirements of the honors program so many times that I don’t know what they want me to do,” she said.
However, Grazman said she plans to stick with the honors program.
“I really like that I’ll be able to say I graduated from one of the top public colleges in the country, especially with this Honors distinction,” she said.