Plan proposes honors college

by Anna Weggel

Along with many recommendations that will affect the future of the University, a task force in March proposed the creation of an honors college to University President Bob Bruininks.

Bruininks will make his recommendations to the Board of Regents in May, and the board will make its final decisions in June.

The proposed name of the school is Regents Honors College, which might enroll approximately 300 students per year, according to the task force report.

The goal of the college, according to the report, is to provide talented students with a challenging education that prepares them for their goals.

“Regents Honors College is designed to expand the pool of the most highly talented applicants who give the University serious consideration,” the report stated.

It would not offer any majors but would work as a gateway for all undergraduate majors in all University colleges.

The college would include a Grand Challenges Curriculum that would be designed to meet liberal education requirements of all other colleges, the report stated.

Once students were ready to join another college, they would be admitted automatically to an undergraduate school of their choice.

The college would have no academic departments, according to the report. Faculty members would hold their academic appointments in other colleges and serve in the Regents Honors College on fixed-term agreements.

The task force report indicated the program would require money for administration, staff members and operations, as well as a physical campus home.

The report did not include the amount of funds needed or building suggestions.

In a report to the University Senate Educational Policy Committee, College of Liberal Arts Honors Director Rick McCormick said the Grand Challenges Curriculum for the proposed college is basically a liberal arts curriculum that matches many ideas already in place.

McCormick questioned whether students would be better served by offering the curriculum in a separate college that would need to borrow CLA faculty members to teach it.

In addition, he said many of the ideas mentioned in the report are already realized in the current honors system.

He asked why the University would only be interested in admitting 300 students per year.

“Should we not instead grow honors, as CLA and other honors programs here have been doing over the last few years?” he said.

McCormick said he realizes there is room for improvement in honors education at the University. But he hopes for a careful discussion before the University carries out the task, he said.

Along with creating the Regents Honors College, the task force recommended the merging of General College into a smaller academic unit within the College of Education and Human Development.

General College Dean David Taylor, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, wrote in his response to the task force’s proposal that the creation of the Regents Honors College is a way for the University to “purchase” more able students from higher socio-economic classes.

The General College Web site states that closing General College and transferring resources to the Regents Honors College will also negatively impact diversity at the University.