Regents discuss Honors College at February meeting

Honors College, student affairs updates, and the 21st Scholarship Gala were some of the topics discussed during the February meeting of the South Plains College Board of Regents.

A report regarding the Honors College Exploratory Committee was presented by Dr. Kristina Keyton, the associate professor of psychology at SPC.

Dr. Keyton discussed three major categories: background information about the Honors College, a few key features of the proposal for the program, and some of the excitement and enthusiasm that has been demonstrated by the SPC community, especially from the faculty.

“We have recently seen data showing that students who start at a community college have higher GPAs in their bachelor’s programs than students who begin their bachelor’s straight out of high school,” Dr. Keyton said. “South Plains College students have even higher GPAs than the average college student. Many students who are unaware of this data don’t realize the excellent educational opportunities that we provide here at SPC.”

According to Dr. Keyton, there are many students who choose to not attend SPC because they are looking for an Honors Program experience and cannot find it at the college. Also, Texas Tech University is less likely to admit a transfer student into their Honors Program as a junior if they have not been in an Honors Program at the institution from which they are transferring.

“Students could gain enrichment in a small number of classes and bring that mindset with them to their other classes, thus enhancing the experience with their classmates,” added Dr. Keyton.

At the first meeting of the Exploratory Committee, there were more than 30 faculty present, with some departments having their chairperson and multiple faculty members serving.

Dr. Keyton was asked by Yancy Nunez, who formed the committee, to chair the committee and move forward with the proposal after seeing the amount of enthusiasm about the project among the faculty.

The proposal requires the formation of three committees: The Honors Program Committee, which manages general operations and the planning of activities for students; The Honors Program Selection Committee, which reviews student applications and would make the decisions regarding whether individual applicants are accepted into the Honors Program; and The Honors Program Curriculum Committee, which will be in charge of reviewing proposals for the honors courses.

The requirements for admission into the Honors Program will be chosen by the exploratory committee and falls under two categories, Past Academic Success and Demonstration of Academic Potential.

Students who are interested in applying for the honors program are required to meet at least one of several key criteria for incoming freshmen. For Past Academic Success, students are required to have either an SAT score of 1150, an ACT score of 26, graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class, or have a GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, or 90 percent on a 100 percent scale. For current SPC or transfer students, they must have a GPA of a 3.5 in at least 12 hours of college coursework.

The Demonstration of Academic Potential requires at least one of the following for all applicants: a writing sample, an interview by a member of the committee, or at least two letters of recommendation, one from a faculty member and another from an extracurricular advisor.

“It is our hope to provide enrichment activities for honors program students in order to deepen the honors program experience beyond the classroom environment,” says Dr. Keyton.

The committee is also looking into program funds and scholarship opportunities for the students.

Dr. Stan DeMerritt, vice president for student affairs, reviewed the enrollment report and explained that the enrollment at the Levelland Campus has declined by 2.8 percent as compared to Spring 2018 and currently has 3,661 students. Enrollment at the Reese Center has decreased by 17 percent to 1,879 students. The Lubbock Center enrollment increased by 10.7 percent since last spring to 966 students, while the Plainview campus also had a major increase of 15.7 percent and is now at 324 students.

The total unduplicated headcount is 8,868. That total is up 1.4 percent, or 124 students, compared to Spring 2018, which had a headcount of 8,744.

Dr. DeMerritt added that dual credit has increased by 463 students this semester. Part of the large increase is due to the Career Technical Education (CTE) dual credit courses that are being offered at high schools.

Internet dual credit enrollment increased this semester by 112 students. However, the Independent Television for Schools and Colleges (ITV) has decreased by 142 students. He explains that it is a shift of teaching on the ITV side to an online format rather than using the college’s learning management system called BlackBoard.

Dr. DeMerritt also presented the housing occupancy to the Board. Total occupancy for Spring 2019 is 80.4 percent, which is an increase from 72.3 percent from Spring 2018. Occupancy for men’s halls is 76.34 percent, an increase from 73.7 percent. Occupancy for women’s halls is 81 percent, which is an increase from 74 percent. The occupancy for Smallwood Apartments is 93.2 percent, which is a major increase from 52.5 percent.

“What we  may see happen in the future is potentially even reverting one of the triplets into a women’s overflow type dorm if we have to,” Dr. Demerritt added. “Either way, we’ve got some room to make things work.”

Julie Gerstenberger, director of development and alumni relations, talked about the 21st Annual Scholarship Gala, “Unlimited Opportunities,” that is set for Feb. 28. The Gala will be held at the Mallet Event Center in Levelland. The Gala host is City Bank Texas, with Brett Taylor Royalty Trust serving as the underwriting sponsor.

Entertainment will be provided by three selective ensembles who are also former SPC students. Gerstenberger added that the students will each have a 20-minute set throughout the evening, rather than a 60-minute block at the end of the evening for feature entertainment as it has been in the past.

“Students will be front and center, and I think in an even bigger way than before,” Gerstenberger said. “One of the things we are weaving into the entire event is the unlimited opportunities that these particular students performing on stage are experiencing.”

This meeting concluded with Dr. Satterwhite announcing the next Board of Regents meeting will be changed to March 7, 2019 to avoid conflicting with Spring Break, which is the following week.

Dr. Satterwhite provided construction updates and discussed the approval to move forward with the bleachers for the track. It has been reported that the materials should be on sight by Feb. 18.

A construction update also was given  on the planning process of the Science Building project that has been under discussion for the past few months. The Board is hoping that the architects who are working on the building are able to provide them with several design options that will work with the age and structure of the building.

“The architects have had to work extensively around the 60 years of the building and improvements that have been made,” Dr. Satterwhite said. “So, our initial concept drawings did not match up with what is underground and above ground.”

Lastly, Dr. Satterwhite discussed the NJCAA Region V basketball tournament which will begin on March 6 in Abilene. The tournament will be held at Abilene Christian University, with the women’s games from March 6 to March 9 and men’s games from March 7 to March 9.