After 18 months of construction, $84 million dollars for the village structure and another $53 million for the brand new recreation center, parking structure and other projects, the University of Arizona added the new Honors Village Residence Hall in fall 2019 about two blocks away from the main campus between North Park and Mountain Avenues, according to an article from tucson.com.
As of right now there is an abundance of new apartment structures that can be used by any student at UA. Usually the results of construction that occur on campus can be used by almost anyone, but when it comes to the Honors Village, that is a luxury that can only be accessed by certain students.
These students have to reach a standard in order to be admitted into the honors college in the first place. They have to have the GPA, the activities, the motivation, etc. to be counted as a UA honors student. The problem is not the fact that the honors college exists, but having separate housing for honors students creates an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality that motivates a social and wealth divide that is unhealthy for a college campus that calls itself inclusive.
When it comes to wealth, anyone can tell you that honors housing is expensive, which makes sense because it is so new. According to the UA Housing and Residential site, the range of main campus double occupancy housing is approximately from $6,000 to $8,000 and the range of Honors Village housing is from $8,000 to $12,000. This huge jump in housing cost already eliminates about half of students who want to apply for the honors college solely because of the expense.
Now to be clear, as a UA honors student you are not required to live in the Village, but it is highly encouraged by the honors college. If you are a part of the honors college, the Village is where most of the events and resources are, so living on the main campus becomes inconvenient. If all of your friends and peers are living in one area and getting the benefits of being in the honors college, anyone should be able to experience that — not just the students who have that extra $4,000 in their bank account.
Anyone can argue that scholarships exist in order to pay for things like expensive housing, but there are only so many scholarships to be given. If a student is equipped enough to make it into the honors college, that should be the only requirement for them to live with their peers. If UA was so concerned about students succeeding together and creating a place for all honors peers and not just sucking more money out of students, the price tag wouldn’t be so heavy.
My biggest concern with creating a whole new village for honors students is the message it sends out to students who are not in the honors college. In the Honors Village you get special labs, more attention and a lot of extra resources to succeed, benefits that come from high school success. Providing students with more benefits just because of their ability to get into a biased honors system gives off the idea that people who cannot reach that threshold do not deserve extra resources to succeed.
Overall, having students who are alike living in the same area and encouraging them to live there for all four years takes away from the diverse atmosphere college is supposed to have. If the Honors Village is looking for a specific type of student and accepts those students, there is a huge likelihood that the diversity will not be up to par with the main campus. College is about meeting new people who are not like you and learning from them, but if you are in a box with the same people for four years, that cannot be achieved.
An article published in the DigitalCommons at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln titled "Honors Housing: Castle or Prison" said it best when describing the problem with making students alike live together, “Honors programs and colleges also might want to question whether the most effective environment for the emotional, psychological, social, and intellectual growth of students is one in which individuals are housed among students of like academic accomplishment and cultural background.”
I'm not against honors colleges — many universities in the world have them and the programs within themselves are not bad or harmful. I also do not think it is bad to reward hard-working students with the title of being an honors student, but the additional step to put a barrier between honors students and non-honors students by creating separate housing is problematic due to the unnecessary divide it creates within the community.
I hope in the future there are better tactics put in place that do not separate UA students, but instead bring us together. We should all have great resources to succeed, despite if we can pay for it or if we have a high enough GPA. College is already a game of who can pay for what, why add a whole new inning to the ball game and give more students the chance to strike out? UA says that we all equally deserve to win at the game of college, I think it is time for them to start acting like it.
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