How is Kansas University perceived across the state? What do the state's top high school seniors think about KU? How about their parents or maybe their high school guidance counselors?
KU has a proud record and is looked upon as the flagship academic institution of the state. Prior to the enlargement of the Big Eight Conference to the Big 12, KU was considered the flagship of the conference, but now, with the additional Texas schools, KU probably has a tough time claiming that title.
Just how good a school is KU? Is it as good as many of its alumni and friends think it is? And what are its shortcomings and its strengths?
What must KU, its administrators, faculty members and alumni, along with state legislators, regents and others do to make the university even better?
These are just a few of the questions the KU Endowment Association hopes to find answers for through a comprehensive survey that is about to get under way.
As noted above, KU is a superior state-aided university, but there is no room for complacency. Other regional schools are trying to improve their academic excellence, and unless KU is on a similar mission, the university will lose ground and perhaps be bypassed by other conference schools. A university cannot stand still, content to hold its ground or position. Such a strategy is sure to result in a lowering of its academic ranking relative to peer institutions.
During the recent Kansas legislative session, it was apparent that many Kansas lawmakers had reservations about the importance of higher education and to what extent schools such as KU merited something more than mere adequate fiscal support. Some lawmakers went so far as to display their dislike or jealousy of the school. This was evidenced by the desire to change the makeup of the Kansas Board of Regents, limiting the number of KU graduates who could serve on this important body at one time.
KUEA officials believe it is important for the association as well as the university to have an up-to-date, top-quality survey about how the school is perceived. No survey has been done for many years, and one as thorough as the one about to get under way has perhaps never been done.
Why do some of the state's top high school graduates decide to leave the state for other schools? Is this the result of parents urging their sons or daughters to go elsewhere? Or could it be that high school guidance counselors believe the students would get a better education at another university?
Is KU thought to be too much of a "party school?" Do some superior high school students think the state's admissions policies are so low that "anyone can get into KU," whereas other schools limit their enrollment to students who must meet challenging minimum requirements?
University officials have indicated they are pleased the endowment association has taken the initiative on this project. It is costly, but it is bound to provide information that will help many on Mount Oread as well as university officials at the KU Medical Center, the Edwards campus in Johnson County and the Wichita branch of the KU School of Medicine.
The survey is expected to take about six months and will cover a wide spectrum of people who play an important role in the overall university picture. The firm of Clark, Martire & Bartolomeo of New Jersey, which has a distinguished record in conducting various surveys for a broad range of clients, will conduct the survey.
One of the significant selling points of a university is what its current students, past students and faculty members think about the school. Are they pleased? Do they think the school is meeting their expectations? And what do they tell high school students about the university? Do faculty members give KU high marks and encourage top-flight faculty members at other schools to consider teaching and research careers at KU?
Do students think faculty members are committed to teaching undergraduates and do students feel they can talk to their professors almost any time they need or want to? How do KU students grade their university advisers? Do the advisers offer significant help to students in choosing classes and tailoring their education to their career goals? How big a problem do students have in getting into classes they want?
These and many other questions will be asked in the upcoming survey. The answers should be of immense help to KU officials and should help endowment association officials in their efforts to solicit and encourage private financial support for the university. The results of the survey will be the property of KUEA, but they will be shared with Chancellor Robert Hemenway and others to help them make KU an even finer academic institution as it enters the next century, a better university for the benefit of all Kansans, as well as for the state, for students and for faculty members.
Such a survey is long overdue.