Southern Oregon University will establish an Honors College at the beginning of the 2013 academic year, university officials announced.

Southern Oregon University will establish an Honors College at the beginning of the 2013 academic year, university officials announced.

Twenty-five students a year will be accepted into the school, which will require its students to take more than 15 honors courses in place of general education classes, said SOU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jim Klein.

"Most honors programs are geared toward preparing students for graduate school," Klein said. "Ours, it's a much more practical one ... students will be partnered with community mentors and really are prepared for the work environment when they finish."

The mentors will be community and business leaders and others who can provide the professional day-to-day expertise required to further students' fields of study. They will work with the students over their four years at the university, Klein said.

The new college will be housed in existing buildings and its courses will be taught by SOU professors, he said.

The cost per credit will be the same for honors students, who will have the ability to combine multiple fields of interest and earn degrees in any combination of the majors SOU currently offers, Klein said.

Internships and research projects with companies, arts organizations and social-service agencies throughout the Rogue Valley will prepare honors students to thrive straight out of the gate if they choose to leap into the job market after graduating, said Jim Beaver, SOU director of interactive marketing and communications.

"The program should have a pretty strong local employment component," Beaver said.

A high school GPA of 3.75, SAT score of 1,200 and an ACT score of 27 are required for students entering, but special exceptions will be made for students who stand out in other ways, he said.

"The Honors College at Southern Oregon University will give students a powerful launch to a career, graduate school — or whatever their next step in life will be," SOU President Mary Cullinan said in a press release. "Students will immerse themselves in exciting and challenging academic experiences. They will participate in meaningful research as an undergraduate, gain hands-on experience in the community, and benefit from a mentoring relationship with a local business or civic leader. They will work on local problems that enhance their understanding of the world."

Applications from those interested in enrolling in the new college will be accepted after Sept. 1, Klein said.

The Honors College has been on the table for a few years, Klein said, and SOU is working to raise money to support scholarships and financial support to meet the needs of its expected honors students.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or swheeler@dailytidings.com.