Topeka The Kansas Board of Regents agreed Thursday to strengthen English proficiency standards for graduate teaching assistants and seek authority from the Legislature to increase university funding by $47.2 million.
After four months of sometimes acrimonious debate, the board passed an English proficiency compromise proposed by Regent Charles Hostetler, Manhattan.
The issue pitted students against administrators, with members of the board choosing sides. Students sought tougher standards, but university officials opposed them.
Sara Scribner, chair of the regents Students' Advisory Committee, insisted on higher standards, noting that "understanding the instructor is fundamental."
University officials warned the policy would reduce the pool of qualified GTA applicants. Del Brinkman, vice chancellor for academic affairs at Kansas University, had said it was unjust to target foreign-born instructors as the cause of a student's failure.
"I REALLY do think the problem exists," Regent Shirley Palmer, Fort Scott, told student leaders at the board's monthly meeting. "I hear you loud and clear."
Under the new guidelines, the minimum acceptable score on the Test for Spoken English would rise from 220 to 230 on a scale of 300 in fall 1992, and to 240 in fall 1993. KU has required a score of 240 for about a decade, while other schools have maintained lower standards.
"You're not going to see much of a difference going from 220 to 240," said Stanley Koplik, regents executive director.
The minimum score to qualify for a one-year probation would rise from 190 to 200 in fall 1992, and to 210 in fall 1993. Students asked that the probationary period be shortened from one year to a semester, but that was rejected.
Also in accordance with the new plan, a student will be added to the group that interviews prospective instructors whose primary language isn't English. And a grievance procedure will be set up to review complaints from students.
Koplik said the new policy would apply only to those teaching assistants hired after the 1991-92 academic year.
IN OTHER business, regents approved university budget requests for the fiscal year beginning in July 1992 that would require 8.2 percent more money from the state general fund.
The budgets for the nine institutions under board supervision and the regents' staff budget now will be presented to the state. Gov. Joan Finney will make the final decisions on what spending recommendations are forwarded to the 1992 Legislature.
The regents and their institutions are seeking $431 million from the state general fund for fiscal year 1993, which is $33.4 million more than they are authorized to spend in the fiscal year that begins Monday.
Including fee funds, the universities are asking for $47.2 million more in fiscal 1993 than they will spend in fiscal 1992. That includes budget increases of $10.7 million at Kansas University Medical Center and $10 million at KU.
REGENTS ARE seeking a 5 percent raise in fiscal year 1993 for faculty salaries and student wages, and a 5 percent increase in the schools' operating expenditures.
Meanwhile, regents approved formation of a task force on qualified admissions the policy proposed by regents that would set guidelines for admission to state universities.
The task force will be named soon to review and make recommendations on whether Kansas should abandon its policy of admitting all graduates of state high schools.
The group, composed of university officials and private individuals, will study all aspects of the issue, Koplik said.
"The task force will look at issues that opponents have raised," he said. "It will take a fresh look and see if they make sense."
KOPLIK SAID the task force also would propose, by December, a strategy to push qualified admissions through the Legislature in the 1992 session.
The regents qualified admissions plan rejected by the Legislature several times would require that freshman students meet one of the following:
Complete a recommended set of courses, including a foreign language, with a "C" average.
Score a cumulative score of at least 23 on the ACT entrance exam.
Graduate in the top one-third of his or her high school class.
In addition, the board adopted a resolution praising Regent Robert Creighton, Atwood, for his year of service as its chairman. Creighton remains on the board.
The board named Jack Sampson, Hutchinson, to serve as chairman. Sampson started his four-year term in January 1989.
Regents approved a request from KU Chancellor Gene Budig to name a new scholarship hall at KU for Koli and Margaret Amini. They donated $1 million to expand KU's cooperative living system. Mr. Amini is a former resident of Battenfeld Scholarship Hall at KU.
And the board passed a measure that allows KU to name the Centron Corp. Building for Charles and Hortense Oldfather of Lawrence. They gave $500,000 to help buy the building. It will be renamed Oldfather Studios.