Scholarship cuts force faculty to re-evaluate funds. Academic full-tuition scholarships will be discontinued for new students after this year.
Senior Rebekah Cole was attracted to ORU for many reasons, but a full-tuition Fellows scholarship from the honors program determined her decision.
Cole, president of ORU’s honors council and SA chief operations officer, said she was offered a full-tuition scholarship from another university and would have attended that school, had ORU not offered her the same benefits.
With financial pressure playing such a significant role in educational choices, many students are faced with the same decision.
Starting in the fall, changes will be made to honors program scholarships which may affect these choices in the future. Incoming students won’t have the option of a full-tuition benefits.
Students may still be able to cover full tuition by combining a larger award with a smaller one, but the scholarship for honors fellows will be set at a constant rate of $20,000 per year.
While the $20,000 scholarship is just $60 shy of full tuition this year, tuition increases can be expected for future years. However, current students who already have full-tuition scholarships will retain them.
Honors Admission Standards Lowered
More changes have been worked into the Honors Program over the past year. In fall 2010, the minimum ACT score was lowered from 29 to 28 and the SAT score from 1280 to 1250.
Cole said she doesn’t see this adjustment as a good thing for the university.
“The Honors Program scholarships are in place to reward the students who dedicated themselves to academic and personal excellence, leadership, and service in high school,” she said. “Lowering the ACT score is indicative of an alarming trend in the reduction of academic standards across the University.”
Last fall, admissions tried a different approach in order to attract more students to the honors program.
[They] sent letters to everyone who had the qualifying test scores and said you qualify [to be in the honors program],” said Nancy Brainard, vice president for enrollment management. “That was perceived by some as, you don’t have to do anything to be in the honors program any more. It was really just a communication strategy.”
Both Brainard and John Korstad, honors program director, said this approach will not be repeated in fall 2011.
In 2011, the honors program will also add a number of awards for scholars. While the program admits around 16 Fellows per year, the number of scholars is much larger.
Scholars must meet certain GPA requirements to renew their scholarships and must take 24 credit-hours of honors classes. Fellows have higher academic requirements in addition to taking five required seminar classes.
Brainard said scholars awards will most likely be set aside for new students.
Previously, honors program scholars received a 50 percent tuition award which was based on their GPA and tests scores, not on their being in the honors program. Non-honors students also received this scholarship.
Cole, who is the president of the honors council, said she is concerned the lack of full-tuition scholarships for fellows will negatively affect the honors program’s ability to compete for bright students against other universities.
Michael Bellew, another member of the honors council, chimed in.
“The realm of academia is very competitive,” he said. Myself and the other Fellows, future and present, are often offered much more aid from other institutions. I personally was offered four full rides.”
Despite past and present scholarship shifts, honors program students have proven themselves successful both on ORU’s campus and beyond it.
Korstad spoke of the successes of honors students, including several who studied abroad at the University of Oxford in England, commonly ranked among the top schools in the world.
Sarah Mirkin, 2010 honors program graduate, currently attends graduate school at Brown University.
“The Honors program is trying to attract more students who have done the leadership, have done the services, and who have a proven track record of not only that but excellent grades and tests well,” Korstad said. “We don’t want it to be a bunch of nerds who are all it’s about me and nobody else.”
Students agree that the honors program has made a difference in their education.
“Being a fellow has had a strong impact on my academic career, due to the relationships I have been able to develop with faculty and peers, as well as the quality of the fellows classes,” said Chelsea Dean, honors council event coordinator.
“I have made my best friends in the Honors Program and am currently serving in leadership positions across campus with many of them,” Cole said. “Almost any organization on campus will have some of its best and brightest leaders come from the Honors program.”
By Katy Miller