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Archive for Saturday, August 12, 2006

New provost to continue push for selective admission

August 12, 2006

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Roughly one in five freshmen admitted to Kansas University don't succeed.

That's a figure that bothers new provost Richard Lariviere.

"They have met the admissions requirements set by law, but they are not succeeding at KU," Lariviere said. "I'm interested in making sure that every kid who comes to KU is a kid who has the capacity to succeed here."

Lariviere replaces former provost David Shulenburger, who also discussed tweaking KU's admissions process.

In the final stretch of Shulenburger's tenure, staff discussed the benefits of "selective admissions" that would have KU raising the bar above other institutions in the state. An accreditation report released last year suggested KU become more selective. Shulenburger saw selective admissions as a move that would attract the state's brightest students to KU and as an economic booster by attracting area companies that seek a top pool of students.

Under the current standards, students must meet one of three criteria to be admitted to a Kansas state university: A student must rank in the top third of the high school graduating class, maintain a 2.0 grade-point average using college-bound curriculum or score at least a 21 on the ACT. For those who don't meet that bar, schools can admit up to 10 percent of incoming students as exceptions to the law.

Criticism of standards

Lariviere said he believed the current standards do a disservice to the state's high schools because students know they can slack off once they've met the bar.

"If they've met that requirement their junior year, they can say to themselves, 'I don't have to take AP chemistry. There's no reason for me to take calculus. I'm already going to be admitted,'" he said.

Lariviere said he was interested in a system that enables the Kansas Board of Regents to set admissions criteria for each institution that allows each school to fulfill its mission.

And when it comes to KU, he doesn't favor looking at single measures like ACT scores. He'd rather call the approach holistic than selective, he said.

"I want us to look at the entire application of every student," he said. "Have they shown leadership? Have they overcome difficulties? Have they shown passion and commitment to anything? Do they understand who they are? Do they understand what coming to KU will mean? These things are all very important in terms of student success."

Regent's response

Regents Chairman Nelson Galle said he was open to conversations about admissions.

"I think it's very, very important that students who enroll are prepared to do the level of work that's expected today at our universities," Galle said. "If they're not, they're wasting their time, and we're wasting other people's time."

Galle said it was important that the regents and schools find ways to help students succeed.

"I think it's important that we just don't assume that the way we're doing it is the correct way," he said.

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