ABC News On Campus reporter Lindsey Reiser blogs:
Amid a turbulent economic climate, the honors college at Arizona State University is seeing an unlikely pattern: an increase in applications.
Keith Southergill, the senior student services coordinator at Barrett, the Honors College at ASU, said the college has seen a 24 percent increase in the number of applications this fall. According to the school’s office of undergraduate admissions, ASU saw an increase of 5 percent in general freshman applications.
Southergill said he’s surprised to see such a jump in people interested in attending the Honors College.
“I’ve been here for seven years and when I started we were getting 1,300 and 1,400 applications,” Southergill said.
That number has now jumped to 2,100, a substantial increase from last year’s 1,800 applicants. Southergill attributes most of the increase to the overall economic slump.
“I think that the economy is a huge factor,” he said. “A lot of the really strong Arizona students that before were probably looking to go out of state, instead have decided that they can come to ASU and be members of the Honors College.”
That’s why journalism senior Tara Prindiville ultimately decided to stay in her home state and attend the Honors College.
“I stayed in state primarily for the money,” she said. “No one wants to graduate college and start a new, adult life with tens of thousands of dollars of debt."
Prindiville said the national attention that the honors college has received in recent years appealed to her, but the idea of saving some money sounded even better.
“If you can stay in state and not spend as much money but also get just as good of an education, I think that’s the best alternative there is.”
Out-of-state senior Susan Hicks agreed that saving money could be the reason in the increased number of applications. But she said that the changes going on at the college, as well as its growing prestige, inspired her to leave home and attend the honors college.
“Of course parents are looking for more frugal ways to have a quality education, but I think that there are other factors,” she said. “I think that the new dorms are a big draw.”
Barrett is opening its new nine-acre campus this fall, with a new four-year residential living complex, dining facility, and faculty office complex. The honors campus will also have its own sustainability community with an organic garden, green roof, and water recycling system that can be used for irrigation.
Southergill acknowledged that the opening of the new campus is attracting more students.
“The excitement and publicity we’ve received about the nine-acre campus is big,” he said. “When people come to see us and they see the plans and take tours and see the rooms, it’s very exciting. I think students are drawn to that.”
Hicks affirmed that the education she has gotten exceeded her expectations.
“It let me have better living arrangements, meet a ton of fun and smart people, and it pushed me to expect more out of what could've been a slacker education,” she said.
Southergill said the acceptance rate is at 78 percent, but it won’t stay that high for long.
“Because we have right now a desire to stay relatively small, and because we’re getting more and more applications, it’s going to be difficult,” he said. “The quality of our applications is extremely, extremely high.”