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FAU's Honors College changing its face to attract more students

While Florida Atlantic University's Honors College is looking more attractive to prospective students, it's working on a face lift to really draw them in.

Applications to the school for the fall 2008 semester were up 11 percent, but actual enrollment dropped 16 percent from fall 2007, according to the registrar's figures.

Lauren Delgado, a sophomore at the Honors College, has noticed the change.

“The residence hall I live in has an entire wing that is closed,” she said. Honors College students are required to live on campus.

So what happened to the student population?

“The fact that enrollment was down caught us by surprise,” said Jeffrey Buller, dean of the Honors College. Students chose to attend “a lot of institutions at a tier we hadn't been competing with before,” including Ivy League schools such as Yale and Princeton.

Many students attending college for the first time are looking for more of a traditional university that has a history, Buller noted. Ivy League schools often are not an option for lower-income families, but several of the seven Ivy League institutions now offer free rides to students whose parents have low incomes, provided they apply early enough.

“This is the first year we had been competing with schools like that. We have to improve our image to attract high-ability students,” Buller said.

Some students agree.

“The biggest hindrance to the Honors College is the Honors College itself. It doesn't put itself out there. Few people know about FAU's Jupiter campus,” Delgado said.

The college recently launched radio spots on public radio station WXEL geared toward an “educated family base.” The school has also revamped most of its marketing materials to reach more students.

Last year, Honors College administrators examined the correlation between high school graduates who were interested in the college and those who have consistently done well after enrollment. They found that students enrolled in international baccalaureate programs in high school were the ones most likely to succeed at the school.

Buller said the Honors College wrote to all high school principals and international baccalaureate program directors in Florida and offered to send a “visiting scholar” for a day. Faculty members are available to travel to state high schools and speak with interested students to tell them about the Honors College experience.

Autumn Keif, a 20-year-old junior, said she chose the Honors College because she received a scholarship and “because the school took all of my [advanced placement] and international baccalaureate credits.”

On Dec. 6, the college will host its first open house directed specifically at international baccalaureate students. The day will include sample classes, workshops, campus tours, and opportunities to speak with faculty and Honors College students who have graduated from international baccalaureate programs.

“We're trying to get students to come here for different experiences, so we're creating multiple recruiting experiences,” Buller said. “Hopefully, one student will say, 'That's the kind of place I want to go.' ”

Kristen Murtaugh, recently appointed FAU's vice president for strategic planning, headed of the MacArthur campus in Jupiter since 2002. She helped plan the site, which opened in 1999.

“I remember when it was just a field with cattle,” she said of the college's location. Now, the Honors College is fast approaching its 10th anniversary.

“That's an opportunity in itself,” Buller said. “It's a way to get people here.”




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