The qualified admissions policy proposed by the Kansas Board of Regents finally is finding some converts in the Kansas Legislature.
During hearings this week, two state senators told the Senate Education Committee that they had changed their minds about the need for qualified admissions for Kansas students. Sens. Frank Gaines, D-Augusta, and Richard Rock, D-Arkansas City., seem finally to have recognized the policy for what it is a matter of preparation rather than punishment.
The bill currently being considered by the Kansas Senate is essentially the same as what has been proposed in previous years. It would require Kansas high school students to meet one of three criteria to gain admission to a state university. They would have to (1) complete a high school curriculum of English, social studies, natural sciences and foreign language with a 2.0 grade-point average, or (2) score at least 23 on the American College Testing (ACT) program's college entrance exam, or (3) rank in the top third of their high school class.
The requirements wouldn't apply to anyone over 21 and universities would be allowed to waive the requirements for up to 15 percent of their new admissions each year. There also are provisions for students who have earned a general education development (GED) certificate.
In other words, this is not a draconian proposal.
It bends over backwards to try to allow even moderately prepared Kansas high school graduates an opportunity to attend a state university. Even those meeting none of the criteria can gain admission if they attend other schools, such as community colleges, and earn 24 credit hours with at least a 2.0 average.
No one is being denied an opportunity to learn.
In fact, the proposal may even improve the opportunities of Kansas university students by allowing the schools to concentrate their resources on students who are ready for university-level work. It also increases the students' chances of success by trying to make sure they are prepared for university classes. Testimony at this week's hearings cited statistics that showed the number of drop-outs among out-of-state students had fallen after higher admission standards were instituted at Kansas University in 1987. Students drop out for many reasons, but adopting a qualified admissions standard should help reduce the number of students who leave for academic reasons, a waste both for the state and for the students' families.
The fact that Sens. Gaines and Rock have changed their stand on qualified admissions may show that the tide has turned in favor of the move. It could be that the state's tight money situation is pushing the effort along by emphasizing that state resources can no longer be wasted on trying to educate unprepared or unmotivated students. If that's the case, so be it. For both financial and philosophical reasons, approval of a qualified admissions policy for state universities is long overdue.