Honors program under revision, ‘clarification’

Winds of change are blowing through Missouri Southern’s honors program.

Starting with the fall semester of 2007, the Evans Scholarship -awarded to honors students -will no longer cover the full, unlimited cost of eight semesters of tuition for the incoming class.

Instead, new stipulations tied to the Evans Scholarship will cover eight semester or 124 credit hours, whichever comes first and a cap of 16 hours per semester (additional hours must be paid for by alternate means). New restrictions also include a new policy on dropped courses and restrictions on room and board.

“The 124 really seems to emphasize a degree over an education,” said Dr. Patricia Kluthe, director of the honors program.

Several concerns have been raised about the new restrictions, including the virtual elimination of pre-professional majors, double majors, minors and other specialized tracks, as most are eliminated by the 124 credit hour stipulation.

“The institution isn’t thinking about the dominoes that will fall years down the line,” said Dr. Lanny Ackiss, professor of English and former director of the honors program.

The new restrictions were also set to apply to current students, however strong objections raised by students and instructors resulted in a change, allowing current students to finish with the eight full semesters they were expecting. The primary complaint was the limited warning time given about the possible changes. The 124-credit-hour limit would have eliminated many students, like senior math and chemistry major John Carr, who has more than 124 hours in less than two years.

“As of next semester, I would not see any support,” he said.

The purpose of the changes was “to address the issue of over-budgeting,” however some believe the changes may effect student recruiting and retention of future students.

“We feel these changes will help stabilize the program to be capable to stand,” said University President Julio León.

With these new restrictions in place, the ability of the honors program to compete with area schools is also being questioned.

“A majority of us chose Southern over others schools in part because of what we were promised,” said Carolyn White, senior pre-medicine major.

Missouri State University’s Presidential Scholarship covers all required student fees up to 18 hours per semester and on campus housing (currently a $11,742 per year value). The Presidential level scholarship at Pittsburg State University covers tuition, fees a stipend for books and room and board for up to four years.

“The incoming freshman don’t really have a sense of what’s happening,” Kluthe said. The honors program is also under the strain of a change in leadership, both Kluthe and Dr. Jeff Martinek, assistant director of the honors program will both be leaving at the end of this semester.

“The program becomes unstable when change is happening,” Kluthe said. “Now it’s even more unstable.”

The decision on the new director of the honors program is still pending however León said the decision will be made “soon” and that several instructors have expressed interest.