Higher tuition could have a greater impact than qualified admissions in putting a higher education out of the reach of Kansas students.
An increase in student aid funds approved Thursday by the Kansas Board of Regents again points out the need for the state to continue its efforts to keep a university education within the financial reach of all Kansas high school graduates.
The regents' plan would add $1 million to the grant funds that are doled out to Kansas residents who are students at private colleges, the six regents' universities and Washburn University. The increase raises the total fund to $10.9 million for fiscal year 2000.
The regents director of student financial aid told the board the increase was important because Kansas has not been a national leader in providing funds for financial assistance. She also pointed out, ``If we are to have a well-educated work force, we have to make it financially possible.''
Another way the regents and the Kansas Legislature can continue to make a university education ``financially possible'' is to take steps to curb tuition increases. In recent years, the state has depended more and more on tuition to pay the costs of operating its universities. While denying significant faculty salary increases, the Legislature has continued to approve higher tuition for Kansas residents and non-residents who attend state universities. Although Kansas universities still are a bargain when compared to many other schools across the country, that reputation may be jeopardized if the trend of higher tuition is allowed to continue.
Also at Thursday's meeting, regents were told about the progress Kansas high schools have made toward helping students meet the new admission requirements for state universities. In three years, Kansas high school graduates entering state universities must have graduated in the top third of their class, have an ACT score of at least 21 or complete a precollege curriculum with a 2.0 grade point average on a 4.0 scale.
The admissions requirements were extremely controversial when they passed because some Kansans believed they would unfairly bar some Kansas high school graduates from automatic admission into a state university. The state's six universities should be open to all Kansas high school graduates without restriction, critics of the requirements said.
Barring students because they have not met minimal academic requirements seems far less egregious than allowing tuition to be raised so high that academically qualified Kansas students can't afford to enroll at a state university.
Regents should be congratulated for increasing the amount of financial aid that will be available to worthy Kansas students. Teaming that decision with a continued effort to curb further tuition increases should help ensure that state universities remain within reach of all Kansas high school graduates.