A new report recommending accreditation for Kansas University opens the door to online degrees and a more selective admissions policy.
The report, from the 12-member committee that toured KU in January and February, recommends KU receive a 10-year renewal of its accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities.
"We're delighted," said Barbara Romzek, the associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who led KU's preparation for the accreditation visit. "We got a great report, and sometimes other schools haven't. We expected to get a great report, but like everything else, you want to see it."
The committee's report now is forwarded to a "readers panel" affiliated with the association for review. That panel's recommendation then will be forwarded to the association's institutional actions council and board of trustees.
Accreditation reports typically are seen as a road map for universities in their planning.
Mentioned several times in the report is the need for KU to become more selective in its admissions. Currently, all state universities have the same standards for incoming freshmen from Kansas: They must rank in the top third of their class, maintain a 2.0 GPA using a college-track curriculum or score at least a 21 on the ACT.
"The university ... needs to be able to adjust its admission standards to gain recognition as Kansas' premier university," accreditors wrote.
Chancellor Robert Hemenway said more selective admissions would "raise the bar" for the university's academic performance. But he said a decision to pursue the policy would take much discussion on campus and with the Board of Regents and Legislature.
"I can't imagine KU adopting a selective admissions policy that would be as selective as a lot of private universities, particularly the prestigious private universities like Harvard or Yale," Hemenway said. "But we should take a look at selective public universities like Michigan and ask ourselves whether or not that would create a lot of opportunities for students to stay in Kansas and attend a more selective university."
The report also, for the first time, allows KU to offer full degree programs online under the NCA accreditation. Hemenway said KU didn't have a specific degree program in mind but wanted the option of expanding its online offerings.
"There are a lot of places these days that offer degrees online," Hemenway said. "We may do some of that, but I think KU will always expect there to be some connection to a teacher in a classroom."
The accreditors listed several strengths for the university since the last accreditation report a decade ago, including the emphasis on international education, restructuring of the University of Kansas Hospital, strides in minority student retention and new faculty funded through tuition increases.
In addition to selective admissions, accreditors said other university goals should include:
- Continuing to find "relief" from state regulations, including the retention of interest income generated by tuition funds now kept by the state.
- Dealing with more than $200 million in maintenance projects that haven't been addressed because of a lack of funding.
- Finding a long-term source of scholarship funding for minority and first-generation students.