The University of Toledo plans to expand, rebrand, and refigure its honors college as the university tries to bolster its undergraduate reputation and recruit higher quality students.
The honors college will be named after Jesup W. Scott, the former Blade editor who founded the University of Toledo in 1872. UT plans to increase enrollment in the college, push students toward experiential learning, and will renovate campus facilities to handle the expansion.
Scott Scarborough, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said the new honors college is part of a larger strategic plan that focuses on undergraduate education. The Jesup W. Scott Honors College will provide an “elite undergradute experience for well prepared students,” Mr. Scarborough said.
Students in the honors college major in traditional degree programs, but also take at least 33 honors credits in classes tailored toward students in the college. The new college will focus that coursework and student experiences in areas such as internships, co-op programs, and undergraduate research.
The university also plans to create academic plans for students so they can finish degrees in three years and begin an advanced degree in their fourth year. That might mean more summer work, or allowing students to test out of low-level classes.
The honors college accepts about 200 new students a year. The goal is to boost each year’s crop by 5 percent a year. Students in the honors college generally score in the top quartile of ACT scores and have a high school GPA at or above 3.8, Mr. Scarborough said.
MacKinnon Hall will be renovated at a cost of about $400,000 as a housing option for students in the college. Students who live in the hall can take classes at the adjacent Memorial Field House. Doermann Theatre in University Hall will also be renovated; bids are not yet out on that project.
If the program grows as hoped, the Dowd-Nash-White residence hall complex would be torn down, and a dedicated honors dorm built in its place, Mr. Scarborough said.
The proposed program expansion comes as UT faces a projected budget deficit in fiscal year 2014 of more than $30 million. To cut costs, university administrators have increased teaching loads for full-time professors. The changes — along with increased spending to expand some programs — prompted outcry from faculty who claim increased loads will decrease teaching quality.
Mr. Scarborough said if the university doesn’t invest in the honors program, it could lose those students to other schools.
“You have to take care of your current financial model, and you have to invest in the future,” Mr. Scarborough said.
The university hired Lakeesha Ransom, previously with the consulting firm Mariposa Global and who has experience in academia, as dean of the new college.