Donors Al and Nancy Burnett, former owners of Contemporary Cars of Maitland, donated money from their proceeds of selling the automobile dealership to the University, and the building of the honors college was subsequently named in their honor. While the amount that the Burnett family provided was not enough for completion, the donation was matched by the state under a legislatively funded program which encouraged private giving for capital construction projects in the State University System. With the Burnett’s donation of $1.5 million and the $2.9 million building fund, the Burnett Honors College building became the university's sixth college and features classrooms, computer labs, offices, lecture halls, and a study lounge with a total of 12,450 square feet.
Construction broke ground on April 24, 2001 with completion in May of 2002 and dedication of the building in October 2002. Home to more than 1,700 honors students, the Burnett Honors College offers a Meditation Garden which provides a special place for students and faculty to relax with one another in a tropical landscape atmosphere. Undergraduates enrolled in The Honors College participate in smaller classes with faculty, including individual research programs or assigned research in the area of a sponsoring faculty member. Another program offered by the college is Honors in the Major, which allows juniors and seniors to conduct original research within their major and write an undergraduate honors thesis. Honors students also have the option to reside in a specifically designed living-learning community, composed entirely of honors students, in Tower III at Knights Plaza. According to the Burnett Honors College website, the college itself is considered the "Jewel of UCF."