Honors Program credits recruiting for increase in participation

Tricia Tortorich

During the past two years, total enrollment in the program has increased by 17 percent. Undergraduate students have three ways of being accepted into the Honors Program. If students have an ACT of 28, they are automatically admitted to the program. If students did not receive a score of 28 or higher, they have to score either a 26 or 27 and be in the top 15 percent of their class, or have a score of 23 to 25 and be in the top 10 percent of their class. This year there were 31 students admitted with an ACT score of 30 or above.

Once accepted, the specific programs and coursework depend on the particular major of the students. There are a few requirements students must meet to remain honors students. Not only do students have to take at least one honors course per academic year, but they also have to maintain a 3.4 grade point average at 60 credit hours.

According to WIU Honors Program Director Thomas Helm, recruiting is the main reason for the increase. “We’ve been doing a lot of recruiting in high schools and the Illinois Math and Science Academy and getting the word out on our program,” Helm said.

“Counselors seem to be quite impressed with WIU and are beginning to realize this is a good place for their very best students,” Helm added.

Helm also thinks another reason for the increased enrollment in WIU’s Honors Program is because of the dramatic increase in the cost of a college education, specifically at private and Ivy League schools.

“We are attracting wonderful students to Western. We can provide students with an education as good as the private elite’s,” Helm said.

The quality of the students in the Honors Program also has greatly increased. “In terms of new freshmen, there has been a 19 percent increase of students admitted to the program,” Helm said. “Close to 25 percent of the 1998-99 freshman honors class had an ACT score of 30 or above.”

This is Helm’s first year as the Honors Program director. According to Rebecca Baggett, Honors Program graduate assistant, “Dr. Helm has made some positive changes to the program, including making the focus a place for students to receive an enriched education. Undergraduate students in an enriched education focus in on special projects and do in-depth coursework for the Honors Program.”

The Honors Program for undergraduates really details coursework. “This program gives them (the students) an edge. After participation in this program, students will have seen a little more than students with a regular college curriculum,” Baggett added.

Steve Reinberg, Student Honors Association president, has been an honors student for four years and has seen the positive impact Helm has had.

“Everything is a lot more proactive. There’s more student participation (and) more inclusion of the honors students,” Reinberg said.

Due to his own experience, Reinberg thinks very highly of the program. “It’s (the Honors Program) been a great benefit. It’s helped me to be more career-oriented in my field of study,” Reinberg added. sf cw ps