57% of honors students stay with program through graduation

Nearly half of all Honors students drop out of the program according to Honors College Dean Douglas Henry. Ava Sanborn | Photographer

By Trisha Porzycki | Reporter

Four years and one thesis paper later, students from Baylor’s Honors College receive a graduation cord and small print on their diploma that reads, “Honors Program graduate.” The program’s difficulty led to an almost 45% dropout rate from Honors College programs.

Baylor’s Honors College is comprised of 1,400 undergraduate students within four programs, including the Honors Program, Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, the Great Texts Program and the University Scholars Program.

Honors College Dean Douglas Henry said that one out of every 10 students at Baylor is connected to the Honors College.

“Students in the Honors College pursue every major offered at Baylor. One of the benefits of Baylor’s Honors College is it is not a one-size-fit-all opportunity for honors-level education. It’s typical for us to have 70 to 80 majors represented in the Honors College. We have a pretty wide footprint,” Henry said.

Compared to other national universities’ thesis-based programs, Baylor’s Honors College has a 20% higher completion rate at 56.85% for the most recent class, according to Henry. Baylor’s Career Center data shows that the most recent 230 Honors College graduates found employment or admission to graduate or professional school less than two months after graduation.

Students within the Honors College are provided with numerous benefits, including interdisciplinary learning, team teaching, seminar classes, scholarship opportunities and the option of on-campus housing within the Honors Residential College.

On top of all the benefits, students say they enjoy the holistic education.

“One of the best things I have received out of the Honors College is a liberal arts education ingrained into different principles and disciplines and learning to connect those through STEM and arts, and cultures and literature is a unique experience,” Village of Four Seasons, Mo., senior Siegrid Massie said.

But with successful graduation numbers and benefits, why do students choose to drop out of the Honors College?

“It takes a lot of self-disciple to make it through, and to be honest, it can spread your mind to try to do well in lots of different types of disciplines, where someone might only be interested in one niche. It’s asking you to broaden your educational horizons. Some are willing to do that, and some are more focused on their direct plans or how it relates to their future,” Massie said.

Others, like Green Valley, Ariz., junior Amanda Wunder, felt the program was not worth it. Wunder decided to drop during the fall of 2019.

“The community in the Honors College was draining. It was a lot of work, which I know is the main reason that students drop. For that amount of work, it wasn’t worth it for what I was learning,” Wunder said. “It was very frustrating that there was no diversity of thought; everything pushed a certain narrative. If your thought didn’t fit that, it wasn’t worth talking about. Having your own opinion was hard in the program.”

The decision to stay in the Honors College all four years depends on each student and their educational goals.

Henry advises students who are potentially looking to drop the Honors College to look at what God has provided for their educational opportunities.

“I remind myself, again and again, of a line from scripture: to whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48). For me and for all of us, wherever we are, this gives expression to a deeply rooted need for the virtue of fortitude. To endure under difficulty, to rise to the challenge, to give our very best, in order to be good students of the intellectual resources and educational opportunities that God blessed us with,” Henry said.

The staff of the Honors College’s four programs hopes students continue to reach out and seek help when questioning if the program is worth it for them.

“We have an incredibly dedicated and competent faculty and staff, not only in the Honors College but throughout the whole university. All of us want to support students’ success through rewarding coursework and responsive mentoring,” Henry said. “On those rare occasions in which students don’t find their niche in the Honors College, we work hard to help them flourish and leave Baylor well-prepared for meaningful lives of leadership and service.”