KU aims to raise the number of high-achieving students in the ranks.
A program in the works at Kansas University would intensify efforts to recruit and retain bright high school graduates, a KU official said Tuesday.
Key objectives of the Mt. Oread Program would be to increase enrollment of students with an American College Test score from 27 to 31 -- they're in the top 15 percent of test-takers -- and hang on to them.
David Shulenburger, vice chancellor for academic affairs, told KU's Senate Executive Committee the program could begin this fall. To begin with, 200 of 700 students in this category will be promised scholarships, small classes and faculty mentoring if they enroll.
The Honors Program at KU takes care of the students with an ACT above 31, he said, but second-tier students feel neglected.
"We found some of our brightest students didn't feel as challenged as they wanted to be," Shulenburger said.
He's disappointed only two-thirds of KU applicants with ACT scores from 27 to 31 actually enrolled at the university.
"We'd like to get a lot more," he said.
In addition, only 68 percent of students in this test-score group who entered KU earned a degree in six years. The graduation rate should top 85 percent, Shulenburger said.
"For 32 percent ... not to earn a KU degree borders on the ridiculous," he said.
Jack Davidson, professor of physics and astronomy and head of SenEx, said he was skeptical the Mt. Oread Program would turn the tide.
SenEx member Robert Minor, professor of religious studies, said he appreciated any effort to shrink class sizes at KU.
"It makes sense to me," he said.
Meanwhile, Shulenburger said he was addressing student recruitment and retention from another angle.
Letters are being sent to all newly admitted KU applicants with an ACT score below 18 and a high school grade-point average below 3.0.
The letter warns these at-risk freshmen to enroll in no more than four courses, live in student housing, attend summer orientation and work less than 15 hours a week at a part-time job. To do otherwise places them in jeopardy, it says.
Dropout rate for KU students with a 13 to 16 ACT is 50 percent.
"There is no intention of abandoning those students," he said. "Neither do we wish to encourage unrealistic expectations on the part of students who are unprepared for the rigors of a university education."