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Large increase in honors program enrollment raises concern

Sensenbrenner+Hall%2C+home+of+the+honors+program.
Sensenbrenner Hall, home of the honors program.

Sensenbrenner Hall, home of the honors program.

Photo by Valeria Cardenas

Photo by Valeria Cardenas

Sensenbrenner Hall, home of the honors program.

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The University Honors Program welcomed their largest class ever this year of 231 first-year students.

In comparison, the program welcomed 174 students in 2016. The program was not expecting this jump in enrollment.

“One thing we all have to understand is that enrollment management is not an exact science,” President Lovell said in a press conference. “When you give an offer to students you don’t always know what you’re going to get until they accept, so we had more students go (into) the Honors (Program) than we anticipated.”

Many upperclassmen in the program expressed their concerns regarding the expansion of this year’s freshman class.

Jared Corbett, senior in the College of Arts & Sciences in the honors program, said he feels that the value of his degree is being undercut by relaxed standards.

“I get the sense that overall Marquette is focusing on expanding without addressing glaring internal problems, like tuition hikes that increasingly alienate low-income students, or our outdated academic buildings,” Corbett said. “The growing class size in the honors program is just a symptom of this broader program of expansion that really does our student base a disservice.”

One main concern going into the school year was how honors professors would handle potentially increased class sizes in a program where the small class sizes are a selling point for many. Amelia Zurcher, associate professor and director of the Honors Program, said that will not be the case.

Zurcher said core classes won’t be larger, but 13 sections of English and philosophy will be newly capped at 19 students.

Despite the program’s growing size, standards for accepting students has not changed. Instead, students are being recruited after being admitted to Marquette instead of before they receive an application decision. 

“Rather than putting out a huge net in the fall, and we were able to recruit all spring as students made their decisions to attend Marquette,” Zurcher said. “With Marquette’s new Vice provost for enrollment Management and its new Dean of Admissions, Marquette has been doing a lot of good new things.”

The Honors Program was a recipient of the Innovation Fund Grant in 2015, and since then, the university has been planning how to make honors more accessible to students in every college on campus.

“When you have growth there’s going to be some tension initially,” Lovell said. “(It) will take some time to get things balanced out, but we’re going to ensure that over time, as we continue to advance and grow, the honors college the experience will be what it was in the past.”

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