Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Higher Education PhD

First Advisor

John Saltmarsh

Second Advisor

Tara L. Parker

Third Advisor

Joan Becker


The problem that this single case study endeavors to address is how the implementation of honors programming at public four-year higher education campuses stimulates and legitimates educational inequality. The concern here is that as both structure and strategy, honors programming may further exacerbate social issues that policymakers historically have turned to higher education to mitigate; namely extreme social and economic stratification and inequality.

The research has been organized for this study with reference to the distribution of knowledge, the structure of learning opportunities and the quality of the academic climate created for students following Oakes’s (1985) study regarding educational tracking.

Data for the case study were collected from Southeastern State University (SSU), an urban public research university, through interviews, site observation, and document analysis. There were nine participants interviewed, including honors college administrators, faculty who teach in both the honors college and other university colleges and an administrator from SSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, their largest college. By way of observation and in addition to formal and informal tours of the college and university facilities, I also made time to observe classes in the college as well as the physical and social spaces which have been constructed for students, faculty and administrators both within the honors college and in the larger university community. The identities of the institution, programs studied and the participants interviewed in this research remain confidential and unavailable in the final presentation of this study.

The findings from this study reveal significant differences in the environment and resources made available in a concentrated way to SSU Honors College students as compared to that made available to their non-honors peers. Synthesis of study findings resulted in the modification of Oakes’s (1985) conceptual model to better adapt to the study of honors programming along with a discussion of propositions for additional study regarding key assumptions underlying honors education at SSU gleaned from the study’s findings.


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