Topeka — There was a time when Sen. Frank Gaines denounced proposals for creation of admission standards for state universities as a "country-club elitist idea."
Well, Gaines now finds himself an ally of those fighting to gain legislative support of a qualified admissions bill.
"I've changed my mind," Gaines, D-Augusta, told the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. "It's not to cut anybody off. They can still go to the junior college."
Gaines was the first of nine people, including Kansas University Chancellor Gene Budig, who testified in favor of the Board of Regents' qualified admissions bill.
"The aim is not I repeat, not to exclude students, but to challenge them to do their best," Budig said.
THE COMMITTEE took no action. Opponents of qualified admissions were scheduled to testify before the committee late today.
Gaining the Legislature's endorsement of qualified admissions to the state's six universities is a top priority for regents. The board has worked toward the goal since 1987.
According to the bill under consideration by the Senate committee, a Kansas resident must meet one of the following requirements to gain automatic admission to a state university in 1995:
Complete a high school curriculum of English, social studies, natural sciences and foreign language with a 2.0 grade-point average.
Score at least 23 on the American College Testing (ACT) program's college entrance exam.
Rank in the top one-third of his or her high school class.
THE REQUIREMENTS would not apply to anyone older than 21.
The bill contains a clause that allows a state university to exempt 15 percent of total new admissions from the standards and a provision that allows for admission of applicants who earned a general education development (GED) certificate.
If students can't qualify for admission to a state university right out of high school, the bill would permit them to attend other schools and transfer after earning 24 credit hours with a 2.0 GPA.
Regent Rick Harman told the committee that the state's open admissions policy offers students no guidance to prepare for college-level work. Under open admissions, Kansas graduates of accredited high schools gain automatic admission to regents' schools.
"The present system of open admissions is in dire need of change because it provides absolutely no incentive for students to become academically prepared for college," he said.
HARMAN SAID he believed qualified admissions standards would lower university dropout rates, raise university graduation rates and save the state money.
To illustate the point, he said admission standards for non-residents set up at KU in 1987 helped reduce the dropout rate by 2.4 percent in 1988 and 1989. The attrition for non-residents was below the rate for residents, he said.
"Recently adopted reforms by the NCAA for determining eligiblity for student-athletes are more rigorous than our present open admissions policy," Harman said.
Budig said efforts to repeal open admissions frequently had been perceived as attempts to enact a policy that would reduce university enrollment, limit opportunity for students and lower the cost of remedial course instruction.
On the contrary, the chancellor said, the objectives were designed to encourage high school students to study harder, encourage school districts to raise quality standards and prepare students to be successful in college.
SEN. RICHARD Rock, D-Arkansas City, also testified before the committee about his recent conversion as a supporter of qualified admissions.
"This is really not a happy political decision to make," Rock said. But, he added, "I don't think we can continue to sacrifice excellence."
Rock said Kansas high school students have needed incentive to do better in class. State university enrollment standards would do that, he said.
"Education is not measured solely in opportunity for learning. I learned that desire is often affected by outside incentives," such as the right to attend the university of choice, he said.
William Barnes, plant manager of Modine Manufacturing Co. in Emporia, urged the committee to approve the bill. He said Kansas industry needs a better-qualified work force.
"It is important we establish a standard because they will be facing ever-increasing standards in the workplace," he said. "We are doing our children, especially the marginal students, a disservice by not exposing them to today's realities."
MICHAEL TILFORD, dean of the graduate school at Wichita State University, testified that state universities no longer could afford to admit unprepared students.
High school students won't voluntarily enroll in harder classes without qualified admissions, said Grant Bannister, student government president at Fort Hays State University.
"The current system expects ridiculous results," he said. "The general student body is being asked to scholastically succeed with minimal preparation. Would a band player be as likely to succeed if they were just semiacquainted with music? Of course, the answer is no. But that is the type of expectation being put on students."