tc columbia

American Honors: The Life and Death of a Public-Private Partnership

American Honors: The Life and Death of a Public-Private Partnership

In fall 2012, a public-minded privately held firm, Quad Learning (QL), partnered with two community colleges to pilot a new program dubbed “American Honors” (AH), which was designed to help academically talented community college students overcome the challenges of transferring to more selective four-year destinations. By fall 2018, QL had dissolved the AH program for domestic students. This paper traces the components of the program’s socially conscious theory of change and its for-profit business model, and the tensions between the two. We explore the meaning of AH’s various components to students, faculty, and administrators, and we estimate its impact on students’ academic outcomes and offer takeaways for future public-private ventures.