After the University’s release of a five-year plan that – except for brief mention of boosting graduation rates – largely neglected undergraduates, it’s nice to see at least one office on campus taking undergraduate students seriously.

As detailed in today’s Oracle, the Resources for Educational Distinction (RED) program will begin pushing USF undergraduates to apply for highly competitive national scholarships, many of which generously fund graduate study and even study-abroad opportunities.

Some of the scholarships advertised by RED include the prestigious Rhodes scholarship, which pays travel costs and tuition to study at Oxford.

Unlike the University of Florida, the University of Central Florida and the University of Miami, USF has yet to produce a single Rhodes scholar. Officials in RED chalk this up in large part to the fact that many USF students simply aren’t aware of such opportunities.

It’s good both for USF students and for the University to aim high and encourage strong candidates to apply.

Not only do the monetary incentives of free graduate study at some of the world’s best educational institutions help talented students who otherwise might not have the financial means to attend them, but more students garnering prestigious awards will raise USF’s national standing.

On its Internet site, the American Association of Universities(AAU) – a group of top colleges and universities that USF aspires to join – lists undergraduate education as a criterion of membership into the AAU.

If USF manages to produce national scholars – the anticipated result of RED’s push – it will reflect positively on the quality of the University’s undergraduate education. To wit, if USF students can successfully compete with students from elite colleges around the United States, USF’s academic standards must be on par with other AAU schools.

USF officials are right to think that admission into the AAU, as well as a bourgeoning culture of scholarship on campus, will enhance the value of a USF degree, whether in the form of better name recognition or academic reputation.

In addition to these benefits, RED helps students who do not vie for national scholarships apply for other grants and scholarships that could help fund their educations.

RED’s work represents more than good effort on behalf of a University seeking respect for its academics and research. Its goal actually serves the undergraduates who are often ignored during the search for recognition.