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Honors College enrollment hits record high

Published: Monday, September 19, 2011

Updated: Monday, September 19, 2011 17:09

Since the Honors College raised its admissions standards in the fall of 2009, it has seen a 41 percent cumulative increase in Honors enrollment.

Director of Honors Rebecca Oliver said there are many factors that have contributed to the growth of the Honors College.

"There is no one formula. What you're taught is that Honors is supposed to happen organically so to speak," Oliver said. "What Honors looks like at one institution will look very different from what it looks like at another institution."

While the actual Honors program at each institution varies, Oliver said ASU's new standards of Honors admissions hover right around the average for a majority of Arkansas institutions. Admissions standards for Honors for incoming freshman are a 27 ACT and a GPA of at least 3.5.

As the bar was raised for Honors admission, the enrollment numbers shot up as well. Freshman enrollment this semester jumped to 239 from 191 a year ago, and 188 in 2009. This year's freshman class is the largest ASU's Honors College has ever had.

"We thought we would hover around that 190-200 mark, and we've blown the doors off, literally, but that's a good problem to have," Oliver said. "And maybe this year is an anomaly, but I actually think it's a picture of what's to come."

Oliver said the growth of the Honors College is a reflection of the growth of ASU as a whole, and because ASU's standards have been raised, the Honors College has raised its standards and is seeing growth in the number of quality students attending ASU.

While the Honors College does do formal recruiting, Oliver said the best recruiting comes from students already involved in Honors by what she referred to as "the trickle-back effect." Students are talking about their experiences to prospective students in their hometowns.

"Our students that are part of Honors are our best recruiters, because they're really sharing the experience that they are having and you can't buy that," Oliver said. "Just the right students at just the right time have chosen ASU and have chosen the Honors College, and they have made the experience what it is. It's all about the students, and it always has been and it always will be."

Erin Flagg, a junior English major of Manila and current undergraduate assistant of the Honors College, is one of those students recruiting simply by being involved and sharing stories of her involvement with others.

"The program has grown by leaps and bounds since I came in 2009," Flagg said. "I feel like so many others are having as wonderful of an experience as I am and those students continue to spread the good word across the state."

Flagg currently serves as the Honors College Senator for SGA, and is actively involved in the Honors College Association where she's held HCA Freshman Rep and HCA Public Relations Director positions.

Some of the ways that current Honors students share their experiences with prospective students are by being a part of Honors Preview Day in October, calling students who have been formally admitted to the Honors College via the Honors phone-a-thon in January and February, and sharing stories and experiences at Honors Reception Day in March.

Oliver said they recruit for ASU first, and Honors is "the tipping point." She said Honors is just a microcosm of the institution, and that students need to choose the institution first.

"You always recruit for your institution as a whole, and then if somebody is on the fence it's a matter of tipping them to our side of the fence into our yard," she said. "And I think the way that we do that is through those personal connections that our current Honors students have with prospective Honors students."

As ASU has hit record enrollment year after year, the Honors College is growing along with it. In 2009 there were 547 Honors students enrolled. This semester there are 769.

"There's a successive growth and change that's happening, and Honors is a program molding ourself around our students," Oliver said. "We're constantly changing because our students are changing, and as the profile of ASU continues to change and moves in the upward trajectory that it is, Honors will continue to change with it."

Oliver, who was hired in 2007 as a consultant to help grow the Honors College, said somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of an institution's undergraduate population should be qualified for an Honors program.

Consequently, as the Honors College is representative of its campus' diverse population, its students will hopefully spread through many different areas of campus. Oliver said this is definitely the case with ASU's Honors College.

"Honors students permeate every corner of campus life. Every discipline, every major, we have student athletes, students involved in Greek life, in SGA, in every student organization practically on campus," she said. "Honors is everywhere, and it helps raise the bar not only for Honors students but for the institution as a whole, and that's the whole point of having an Honors college."


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