Establishing an Honors College at Millersville University
The University Honors Program Committee and the Honors Program Director will be recommending the establishment of an Honors College to replace the current Honors Program. While continuing present Honors policies and curriculum, the Honors College will better serve students and faculty in several ways: by attracting additional revenues in conjunction with the University Development Office, by enhancing the academic climate of the University community, by encouraging pedagogical excellence and experimentation among faculty, and by providing improved recruitment, retention, and enrollment management for honors students and the University community as a whole. Without changing the present organizational structure of the Honors Program, Honors College designation will improve the visibility and recognition of academic excellence necessary to increase financial support from corporate and private donors. As a visible sign of commitment to excellence, the College will attract a greater number of talented students to the University and will contribute to retention and enrollment management initiatives across campus.
In his report, consultant William P. Mech states, "The successful implementation of an Honors College will give Honors education a more central, visible and coherent position within the university. It will improve the recruitment efforts of the entire university; attracting top students also has the significant second-tier effect of bringing along those good students influenced by the choices of the best students whose judgements they respect. This raises the quality of students for the entire university. The presence of an Honors College is attractive for development purposes, too. This draws much-needed gifts into the university."
An Honors College, like an Honors Program, is a carefully articulated opportunity for learning within the framework of the larger university. Both are designed to enhance the academic climate of the entire University community while providing for students with exceptional academic talents and motivation the especially challenging opportunities to develop skills essential to post-graduate leadership. The difference between a College and a Program is one of scale and commitment rather than numbers or structure. The proposed Honors College would preserve the Program's faculty leadership and supervision without adding administrative positions; the Director and College Committee would continue to be selected from the faculty exactly as in the past.
The presence of an Honors College is a clear sign that the University is committed to academic excellence and has committed substantial resources to achieving high academic goals. The Honors College would cultivate curricular and programmatic flexibility allowing it to serve as a crucible of curricular and pedagogical experimentation benefiting the whole University.
Building a community of faculty and student interaction. the College guarantees a core of highly motivated students whose presence enhances the intellectual, creative, and cultural climate of the entire campus. Preparing students for graduate and professional education beyond the baccalaureate, the College would provide an indication of the highest quality undergraduate education the University offers and contribute to the acceptance of Millersville alunmi/ae into graduate, professional, and other programs of advanced study. The College would be advantageous in efforts to attract greater numbers of talented students with more diverse backgrounds and would improve the academic and cultural community of the University as a whole. The Honors College would enhance both the quality and the reputation of Millersville University.
The current Honors Program has grown and succeeded in its present form to bring recognition to Millersville University since its formation in 1980. After careful consideration; after having conducted open meetings to share and gain information from faculty, administrators, and students; and after conferring with an expert outside consultant, the Director and Committee conclude that the University will benefit greatly from the transition to an Honors College. As a College, Honors curricula and programming would gain increased visibility and recognition, consistent with the achievements of recent University Honors graduates and Honors faculty. At present, the Millersville University Honors Program is favorably comparable to public university honors colleges elsewhere in Pennsylvania and throughout the region; Honors curricular development, advising, faculty, and cultural activities have been cited by national surveys and evaluations that have ranked Millersville highly for its academic programs. So, such a transition is timely.
In his exit interview in March 1999, outside consultant William F. Mech indicated that there are four compelling reasons for Millersville University to make the transition from Honors Program to Honors College:
1) Competition (especially from SSHE schools and others in the region): Indiana University of Pennsylvania had no honors program prior to 1996 when, thanks to a very large donation, they established the Robert E. Cook Honors College. Since then they have been aggressively recruiting students and marketing the honors college. Cheyney University has used a large donation to establish an Honors Academy, which they began marketing in 1999.
2) Potential donors to attract new money to the university: Donors will be more willing to contribute to an Honors College than to an Honors Program. A change from Honors Program to Honors College will enhance the academic reputation of Millersville University and will provide the perception that Millersville University has made a substantial commitment to academic excellence, thereby attracting new money for the entire institution, not only the Honors College.
3) Maturity of the existing program: Millersville's Honors Program already offers many of the services associated with Honors Colleges across the country.
4) Disturbing university-wide enrollment trends: In recent years, the number of academically talented students who have enrolled at Millersville has declined. In Fall 1998, for example, only 25% of students in the top 10% of their high school class and with SAT scores above 1200 accepted admission to Millersville. An Honors College would help to reverse such enrollment trends by attracting academically talented students.
To continue the academic growth associated with honors education at Millersville, it is vital to keep pace with State System of Higher Education universities that have already formed honors colleges. Honors College designation will contribute to both perception of and continued commitment to academic excellence at Millersville. Establishment of the College affirms the University's commitment to academic excellence and offers opportunities for honors education to grow and flourish in several ways.
Already offering many of the services associated with Honors Colleges across the country, the University Honors Program functions much as an Honors College at the present time, with notable exceptions of visibility, facilities, and financial resources. Establishment as an Honors College would remedy these areas and assure continued success in meeting present goals. With the commitment represented by the College designation, Honors recruitment, advising, curriculum, cultural enhancement, and development would benefit from increased funding from private and corporate contributions. Improving visibility and availability of Honors housing, classroom space, staff, and records is unavoidably linked to increased financial support. Working with University Development Offices, the Director and Program Committee expect this support to come primarily from outside donors, contributing to the University's economic resources rather than drawing from present resources. The expectation is that new monies will enable the current programmatic goals to be met and Honors College growth in service to be realized.
Since the University Honors Program is already functioning much as an Honors College, the transition from Program to College does not require many immediate changes. The implementation plan focuses on ten issues which can be addressed in phases as resources become available. The lack of additional resources at present should not hinder the immediate transition.
Recruitment and Admissions--For the purposes of student recruitment and admissions, it is important that the transition be made as quickly as possible and certainly no later than the start of the Spring 2000 semester. Recruitment and admissions would be accomplished in coordination with the Admissions Office with the first class being admitted for Fall 2000.
Fund Raising--It is unnecessary to delay making the transition until donors can be identified. Donors will be more willing to contribute to an Honors College than to an Honors Program. The University's willingness to make a visible commitment to Honors education will be attractive to donors. Fund raising activities would be coordinated with the University Development Office.
Scholarships--The first specially-designated scholarships were awarded to students joining the Honors Program in fall of 1999. A total of $15,000 was awarded to seven students, the amounts renewable for four years. An additional $15,000 will be awarded each year so that eventually $60,000 in scholarships will be available for approximately 10% of the students in the Honors College.
Facilities--The present Honors Program office is inadequate to meet the needs of the current Program. The program has outgrown its current space and its location on the second floor of Cumberland House and is not easily accessible for those with physical disabilities. It becomes increasingly imperative to find more appropriate facilities so that the Honors College will be more visible and more attractive to students and donors.
Clerical Support--There has been inadequate clerical support to meet the demands of the Honors Program. These demands will continue to exist whether we make the transition to Honors College or not. The hiring of a half-time temporary clerical staff member has been approved for the 1999-2000 academic year, but it has proved difficult to find a qualified applicant willing to work half-time.
Staffing and Office Administration--In addition to the need for permanent clerical support, the Honors College needs to continue the half-time release for the Director and funding for student employees in the office. The current budget of $7000 supports student employees and office supplies, as well as all cultural activities.
Curriculum--The current curriculum is appropriate for an Honors College and need not be changed for the immediate future. The University Honors Program Committee of Faculty Senate would be renamed the Honors College Committee but would retain its same membership and functions as specified in the Governance Manual. At present, 6 credit hours per semester are allocated specifically for Honors courses. With approximately 20 honors courses offered each semester, this represents less than 10% of the total. The commitment to Honors education is presently coming from departments and schools who support the offering of Honors courses beyond the allocated 6 credit hours per semester.
Cultural and Other Activities--With a limited budget ($7000 covers cultural activities as well as student employee budget and office supplies) the Honors Program has been able to provide students with a variety of cultural activities in support of their education. Trips to the symphony, opera, theatre, and museums in Lancaster, Baltimore, Washington, and New York have been staples of the Honors Program for many years. Participation in group activities such as the ropes course at the Lancaster County Park and white water rafting trips have been enthusiastically supported by students in the Program. Several dinners each year are also scheduled for students in the Honors Program.
Student Research Grants--A small amount of money has been made available to support collaborative student/faculty research projects of students in the Honors Program. Since 1998, through a competitive application process, approximately five $ 1000 fellowships each year have been awarded to students for summer research.
Travel and Professional Development--In recent years, students and faculty of the Honors Program have not been able to take advantage of the many honors-specific professional development opportunities available. The National Collegiate Honors Council and its regional affiliate sponsor conferences, workshops, and seminars on various topics of interest to students and faculty. The Director of the Honors College or his designee should regularly attend the annual conferences of the NCHC. Students in the Honors College should receive financial assistance to attend NCHC regional seminars and both students and faculty should be encouraged to present papers at both the national and regional meetings.