It appears that university officials and the Kansas Board of Regents are laying the groundwork for another run at "qualified admissions" for Kansas high school graduates.
Until 2001, any student who graduated from an accredited high school in Kansas was automatically eligible for admission to any university in the state system. The populist idea that all taxpaying Kansans should be entitled to send their children to a state university died hard, but the standards eventually adopted by Kansas legislators posed little impediment to most would-be university students.
Kansas high school graduates were required to rank in the top third of their class, maintain a 2.0 grade-point average in a college prep curriculum OR score at least 21 on the ACT college entrance exam. Meeting just one of those criteria was relatively easy for most students - perhaps too easy.
This week, the Board of Regents again was discussing the level of preparedness of the state's university freshmen. The three admissions criteria for Kansas students clearly aren't doing the job. For instance, almost 1,000 students at Kansas University are enrolled in a remedial math class for which they will receive no college credit. Both the university and the students are expending resources for a non-credit class to help the students reach minimal math competency, something that clearly should have been accomplished before they arrived on campus.
The need for such remedial classes makes a strong case for increased admissions requirements, but it's important not to close the door to Kansas students who want to pursue a university degree.
The answer seems to lie in the "seamless" higher education system that was envisioned when the state's community colleges and vocational-technical schools were brought under the Board of Regents umbrella. A higher admissions standard for Kansas freshmen would be far more palatable if there were foolproof and convenient ways for students to do remedial work at community colleges while perhaps also earning other credits that would transfer to a state university. When that transfer takes place, those students should be eligible for whatever tuition breaks they would have been offered as freshmen.
It's unrealistic to think that every student who graduates from a Kansas high school is interested in or prepared for a university education. It's a waste of state and family resources to send an ill-prepared student into a situation in which he or she is likely to fail. Setting moderately higher university admissions standards may force some students to enroll at a community college first, but that preparatory time could well be a good investment in their higher education.