Thursday, July 21, 2011

Why the Bias Against Acceleration?

I am puzzled about many “honors” programs in colleges.  Why are most programs designed around enrichment instead of acceleration?  The simplest path for the most advanced students is to accelerate by allowing them to skip over material they have already mastered, e.g. the general education core.  Instead, students are invited to participate in an honors program that adds more classes without offering the student the benefits of early graduation.  Some honors programs even extend the student’s time in school because time spent abroad does not necessarily fulfill all the college’s unyielding, one-size-fits-all core requirements.

Savvy students are smart enough to look at an honors program and realize it would mean more work simply to earn the right to wear a gold cord at graduation.  Is a gold cord more valuable than saving a year of student loan debt or beginning one’s career a semester ahead of schedule?

I have considered why so many educators are vehemently opposed to early graduation.  I have cynically concluded that the only reason not to accelerate honors students is to squeeze the maximum amount of tuition from them.  A year of savings for the student equals a year of lost revenue for the institution. 
Students should chart their own best course, doing what benefits them educationally and financially.  Institutions should not hold them back.
For suggestions on acceleration at the elementary and secondary level, see this article.