Archive for Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Governor tells state universities they need to improve their national stature

Challenges KU to get med, law schools in top 50

Gov. Mark Parkinson on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009, asked the Kansas Board of Regents to put together a plan that will improve academic rankings at state universities, including Kansas University. He said KU should be in the top 50 of national universities. It currently is ranked 96th by U.S. News and World Report. Parkinson said admission standards should be tougher at KU, and, he said, he would support a tax increase to help KU and the other regents schools improve their rankings. The major announcement was made at the regents' working retreat in Wichita.

Gov. Mark Parkinson on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009, asked the Kansas Board of Regents to put together a plan that will improve academic rankings at state universities, including Kansas University. He said KU should be in the top 50 of national universities. It currently is ranked 96th by U.S. News and World Report. Parkinson said admission standards should be tougher at KU, and, he said, he would support a tax increase to help KU and the other regents schools improve their rankings. The major announcement was made at the regents' working retreat in Wichita.

August 25, 2009, 3:01 p.m. Updated August 25, 2009, 6:14 p.m.

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Parkinson says public universities 'mediocre'

Gov. Mark Parkinson called the state's public universities mediocre in front of the Kansas Board of Regents Tuesday. Parkinson says it's time for an in-depth review of the entire higher education system. Enlarge video

Governor addresses Board of Regents

Gov. Mark Parkinson in a speech Tuesday at the Kansas Board of Regents retreat said that the national standing of state universities should be higher, and that KU and K-State should have tougher admission standards. Enlarge video

Gov. Mark Parkinson on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009, asked the Kansas Board of Regents to put together a plan that will improve academic rankings at state universities, including Kansas University. He said KU should be in the top 50 of national universities. It currently is ranked 96th by U.S. News and World Report. Parkinson said admission standards should be tougher at KU, and, he said, he would support a tax increase to help KU and the other regents schools improve their rankings. The major announcement was made at the regents' working retreat in Wichita.

Gov. Mark Parkinson on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009, asked the Kansas Board of Regents to put together a plan that will improve academic rankings at state universities, including Kansas University. He said KU should be in the top 50 of national universities. It currently is ranked 96th by U.S. News and World Report. Parkinson said admission standards should be tougher at KU, and, he said, he would support a tax increase to help KU and the other regents schools improve their rankings. The major announcement was made at the regents' working retreat in Wichita.

— Gov. Mark Parkinson on Tuesday called for major improvements in the state’s higher education system, including boosting the national academic ranking of Kansas University.

“We would not be satisfied if we didn’t have a single sports team in the top 90, so why are we satisfied that we don’t have a single university in the top 90? I’m not satisfied,” Parkinson said to the Kansas Board of Regents.

According to U.S. News and World Report, of the 260 national universities, Kansas University was the highest ranking school in the state at 96. Kansas State University was ranked in the third tier, which means it was between 134 and 196; and Wichita State University was in the fourth tier, which means it was ranked between 197 and 260.

“It’s far more important to me that we have a university academically in the top 20 than we have a basketball or football team in the top 20,” he said at the regents’ annual working retreat meeting.

After delivering a 40-minute speech to the regents, Parkinson said both KU and Kansas State University needed to have tougher admission standards and be more selective in accepting students.

And, he said, he would support a tax increase, if needed, to increase faculty salaries and other resources to improve the academic rankings of state universities.

“This board agrees with you,” Regents Chairwoman Jill Docking said. “We will rise to this challenge,” she said.

Parkinson proposed a 10-year timetable to accomplish the following:

• Raise KU to the top 50.

• Raise K-State to the top 100.

• Have no Kansas institution in the fourth tier.

• Improve rankings for specialty programs, including making the KU law and medical schools in the top 50; getting the K-State veterinarian school in the top 10; getting all engineering schools in the top 100; and analyzing the possibility of a dental school at Wichita State University.

Another major portion of Parkinson’s speech was to improve retention and graduation rates of students.

“Unfortunately, our performance in Kansas is even worse than the national average,” he said.

He said increasing admission standards would help retention and graduation rates by ensuring that students who are ready for college-level classes are enrolling. He said the regents needed to emphasize the importance of community colleges and technical schools to train students to fill job shortages.

Parkinson said he felt that if the regents gave the Legislature a strategic plan to make these improvements, lawmakers would listen to ways to increase funding. If they didn’t, he said, then they are making the decision that the status quo is OK.

Regent Donna Shank said Parkinson “was right on target.”

She said one of the main reasons that the regents hired new KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was to improve KU’s national academic standing because she is coming from the University of North Carolina, which has a high ranking.

“We think KU ought to be achieving at a much higher level,” Shank said.

During his speech, Parkinson said he recognized that many believe national academic rankings are somewhat subjective and problematic. But, he said, they are important. High rankings will prevent the “brain drain” of high-performing students leaving the state.

And, he said, the U.S. News and World Report rankings are based on factors that are important, such a peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources and student selectivity.

Both Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and Interim Provost Danny Anderson were unavailable for comment, said Lynn Bretz, a university spokeswoman.

“We are encouraged that during this period of budget reductions, Gov. Parkinson is focusing attention on the national aspirations of Kansas higher education. We also appreciate his reference to Chancellor Gray-Little’s goal of improving graduation and retention rates,” Bretz said in a written statement.

“The governor is correct in pointing out that improving reputational factors will require an investment of resources, planning and time. However, in his focus on the national magazine U.S. News’ ranking of undergraduate education, we hope that people do not lose sight of the fact that U.S. News ranks 20 KU graduate programs in the top 25 among all public and private universities.”

Comments

KSManimal 5 years, 9 months ago

Oh, please.... put your money where your mouth is, Mark.

mbw3012 5 years, 9 months ago

hmm... So do things like KUs Special Ed program being one of the top programs in the country not count because it's not law or medicine?

Danimal 5 years, 9 months ago

This guys priorities are all screwed up, caring more about academics than athletics?

rgh 5 years, 9 months ago

Why is a lame duck Governor calling out Kansas Universities? All three do a great job and put out some darn fine people in the work force. He just slammed every person going to WSU, KU, and KSU as well as all their faculty and grads. Your comments will surly be coveted by those running these fine institutions of higher learning.

The Board of Regents also handles matters at Fort Hays, Pitt State, and Emporia State but the Governor didn't call them out. Do you have to be a D-I athletic program to be a good academically?

OldEnuf2BYurDad 5 years, 9 months ago

Sounds like No University Left Behind.

Thanks for the unfunded mandate. Gee, what leadership. He TELLS the schools to improve with no assistance whatsoever. Laughable... as soon as I stop crying.

mmiller 5 years, 9 months ago

Interesting comments made by the gov. I think he should have phrased this differently. It seems kind of "in your face." Perhaps he should have said "Our state universities are fine institutions. However, I encourage them to improve their national stature...bla bla bla....." Anyway......It is what it is....

chimein27 5 years, 9 months ago

Is this another example of cracker jack journal world editing or does the Governor know nothing about the Kansas State Veterinary College. They are world renowned and are one of only 28 vet schools in the country. I think they've made into the top 100 by default.

    The best vet school is usually the one you get into," said Dr. Andrew Maccabe, associate executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). "We don't recognize any rankings because we're not aware of an objective ranking system. All 28 vet schools are American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredited and meet the same standards, so all will provide a quality education. But the number of applicants exceeds the number of overall seats."

chimein27 5 years, 9 months ago

It appears they have just edited to say top 10 in Vet Schools.

Jonathan Kealing 5 years, 9 months ago

Chime-- We did. We misheard the governor and just got the text of the speech.

Jonathan Kealing Online editor

alchemist 5 years, 9 months ago

I think it's high time something like this is said. KU's requirements to enter the University are too low, in fact they are a joke when compared to many other highly regarded state schools (the Universities of Michigan and Illinois quickly come to mind). Too many high school grads are ill prepared because they didn't take high school seriously knowing they could get into KU with mediocre and below average grades (yes a 2.0 is considered below average these days due to the extreme grade inflation that exists (a whole other issue in itself)). A student with a 2.0 GPA in high school should not be entering a 4 year university because that student will be taking too many remedial courses of things they should have already learned in high school. A student with these kinds of grades should be going to a junior college first to get their feet wet with college and get themselves caught up, then transfer to whatever university you want. Once you have the necessary background to succeed at a 4 year school.

Evan Ridenour 5 years, 9 months ago

Stupid political dribble.

They are public universities that the public doesn't even fund! There are two ways that KU could rank that high academically.

  1. Stop admitting people with a 21 ACT (or whatever it actually is, its pathetic either way) and awful high school GPAs.

  2. Actually fund the universities.

And the best option would obviously be to do both.

A university isn't going to get an awesome academic ranking when 70% of the student body would be better off working at Wal-Mart. Especially if it doesn't have any money.

kujayhawk 5 years, 9 months ago

He's got a point, but it's a hell of a lot more fun to have basketball and football teams in the Top 20.

greenquarter 5 years, 9 months ago

Well, he can start by educating the lawmakers on the importance of university education (and the importance of helping fund said universities). That's more than half the battle right there, when many state legislators don't have a college education and don't see the need for one, with their districts being mostly high school grads (even though, for example, farming increasingly benefits from higher ed). So they don't care to provide funds to state schools. And KU's admission requirements are much higher than they used to be: graduate from a KS high school? You're in--as recently as 10 years ago.

d_prowess 5 years, 9 months ago

logic, the comments are probably coming now since the a number of the ranking were just released.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 9 months ago

Ironic that Parkinson is saying this in a year when public allocations to state universities is reduced from last year and is at an all-time inflation-adjusted low. Money makes the world go 'round.

Every faculty, staff, and particularly every administrator (dean, provost, etc) should be forced to justify their existence in a top to bottom performance review.

Faculty performance should be judged by amount of money brought in from tuition and external research dollars, and administrators should be forced to account for their activities that justify their high salaries.

KU has an entrenched administrator culture.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 9 months ago

KU's entrenched administrator culture is a one way street. Once you are in, you are set for life. Rarely do deans and provosts have performance reviews where they are actually held accountable for their accomplishments.

This is because none of them want to be subject to a performance review so no one is willing to call for it.

This leads to an entrenched, mediocre administrator culture, and boy-o does KU have one.

justaverage 5 years, 9 months ago

Rankings of anything are totally subjective. The public universities in Kansas were originally established to benefit the citizens of the state, not for made-up national rankings.

persevering_gal 5 years, 9 months ago

alchemist & eride -

I am sure your intentions mean well, but I have to disagree with both of you on this one. I had poor grades in high school and a very poor ACT score. Today, I consider myself to be a pretty good student at KU. I am very fortunate to have been admitted into this university. Perhaps it is not only the students who did poorly in high school. Why come to such conclusions without any statistics in front of you? Have you considered the students who perhaps did well in high school, yet spend their weeknights partying instead of studying?

Katherine Greene 5 years, 9 months ago

If you read the transcript of his speech (from the link in the article) you'll see that many of your comments are addressed and that Parkinson actively supports education from community colleges and vocational training through national universities.

remember_username 5 years, 9 months ago

I think its a great idea. The regents should put together such a plan, then we'll all watch the state legislature and governor's office backpedal like crazy when they find out how much it costs.

MyName 5 years, 9 months ago

@yourworstnightmare

It's funny how many experts on how to run a University are wasting their talents on public forums and message boards. Who knew this state had such a languishing talent base?

Have you ever considered the fact that the problem isn't just with the administration at KU? The State of Kansas is providing 30% of the budget but, since it's technically ran by the state, this oversight is probably responsible 60% of the extra regulations and bureaucracy.

Perhaps if it wasn't forced to run at the lightning quick pace of state bureaucracy and decision making, the University might be ran more efficiently.

And regarding the Governor's comments, all I can say is at least it's good he's paying lip service. If we get a less moderate governor after the next election, the schools in this state will probably not even get that.

fletch 5 years, 9 months ago

In other news, a 35% cut to higher ed funds over the last 5 years....

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 9 months ago

MyName wrote: "It's funny how many experts on how to run a University are wasting their talents on public forums and message boards. Who knew this state had such a languishing talent base?"

It doesn't take an expert to realize that holding employees and managers accountable for their performance and accomplishments can make thing better.

You did not refute my main thesis, that KU has an entrenched administrator culture that is unaccountable to performance. This results in a complacent, mediocre administrator class and thus a rudderless, listless, mediocre university.

KU needs better, smarter, and more motivated deans and provosts to really drive the university forward. It also needs a system of accountability to hold administrators to performance standards.

Until this happens, KU will languish in mediocrity.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 9 months ago

I agree that it is good the governor is at least paying lip service.

leeroy_johnson 5 years, 9 months ago

BS. If the standard of students coming in is not up to par with high drop out levels, sounds like a previous education problem not preparing students. Way to escape real problems. "high drop-out rates... well lets just accept less people so less will have the opportunity to drop". A tax increase for higher salaries? how about more teachers with smaller classroom sizes. I think a common sense class should be mandatory before attending college. Current administration should be forced to repeat the class once a year.

Evan Ridenour 5 years, 9 months ago

" persevering_gal (Anonymous) says… alchemist & eride - I am sure your intentions mean well, but I have to disagree with both of you on this one. I had poor grades in high school and a very poor ACT score. Today, I consider myself to be a pretty good student at KU. I am very fortunate to have been admitted into this university. Perhaps it is not only the students who did poorly in high school. Why come to such conclusions without any statistics in front of you? Have you considered the students who perhaps did well in high school, yet spend their weeknights partying instead of studying?"


My response: Perhaps you don't understand the point I was trying to make so I will reiterate.

Rankings have a lot to do with the quality of students that the institution brings in, KU lets everyone in. It isn't meant to be a slight on you, there are of course exceptions for everything, but in general students with awful GPAs and awful standardized test scores aren't very desirable students and KU lets a lot of these people in. In fact I think the instate admission rate is in the mid to high 90 percent range!!!!

Couple that with my original posts inclusion of the point that the state government isn't even really funding KU anymore and you have an utterly ridiculous (and completely impossible) political mandate. Comparing it to Athletics is even more laughable. He should at least compare apples to apples. The KU basketball team sure wouldn't be top 20 either if it let anyone who wanted to join on the team. It is effectively how the academic side works... except the academic side also doesn't have any money. Both of those issues are under direct control of the state government not the university.... cough.

Bradley Kemp 5 years, 9 months ago

The regents system should be streamlined. We have too many universities and too many duplicated academic programs. Why have two schools of engineering, for example, in a state with the population of a medium-sized city?

3ofClubs 5 years, 9 months ago

My dad was always telling me to stand up straight so I could improve my stature. So did my mom. Didn't really help; I'm still 5'2". Maybe someone should tell KU to stand up straighter. That might improve their stature.

booyalab 5 years, 9 months ago

To those posters whose proposed solutions involve raising the ACT or GPA for entry: the mentioned prerequisite scores are well within the average scores for universities nationwide, and yet our universities are [i]still[/i] below average in academic quality. So why would KU raise their acceptance standards when the prospective students who actually met those increased standards could go to a better school in the same tier? Obviously different measures have to be taken.

JoRight 5 years, 9 months ago

@yourworstnightmare

I completely agree. I don't think that all deans & provosts are all lazy, worthless sacks, but, there are some nonetheless. You could drag this down to the level of staff as well. Reviews within the staff are just as laughable; no matter if you were awesome throughout the entire year or you were lazy, everyone essentially gets the same raise, minus a percent or two (when someone is making 30k-40k, 1% or .5% doesn't mean anything).

Mediocrity is entrenched in the culture at KU, there is no way around it.

Phillbert 5 years, 9 months ago

"And, [Parkinson] said, he would support a tax increase, if needed, to increase faculty salaries and other resources to improve the academic rankings of state universities."


This Legislature wouldn't even postpone an estate tax cut in order to avoid layoffs in schools and universities - why would any sane person expect it to raise taxes in order to increase the rankings Kansas universities get from some magazine?

Parkinson might as well have set a goal of every Kansas child owning a unicorn, as that's about as likely to happen as him and the Legislature committing to making the investments and the hard choices that would be needed to come close meeting to any of these goals.

volunteer 5 years, 9 months ago

KU's stature was improved in my eyes when we got rid of the Chancellor who greeted the student body at Convocation with the words, "Welcome, party animals."

been_there 5 years, 9 months ago

One suggestion, the dean of a department (school) cannot be married to a faculty member of the same department (school). When a student has a valid complaint about a professor, it does no good at all to complain to the dean if the two are married. I know students who have changed majors from something they would have been really good at because of this. Students should not have to worry about interschool politics. Professors should not be allowed to disallow prerequisite credits from another college because they don't like that school when KU said they were allowed and transferable. I know a student that stood their ground and demanded to be allowed in the class and was basically told "you can take it but you will be failed". This department lost an excellent hard working student that would have excelled.

LiberalDude 5 years, 9 months ago

Fletch hit the nail on the head.

a 35% cut to higher ed funds over the last 5 years

The Kansas government doesn't provide the financial resources to allow nationally ranked universities.

alchemist 5 years, 9 months ago

booyalab,

I disagree that KU's scores are average to comparable other schools.

In Illinois and Michigan for example, KU's requirements would compare with Illinois State or maybe Michigan State (although I believe their admissions standards have increased in the last 10 years). KU's admission requirements would not compare at all to the University of Illinois (why do you think so many chicago suburb kids head here, a lot of them couldn't get into the U of I). Unless you are an awfully talented athlete, or get a miracle you would not gain admittance to any school at the University of Illinois with that score not even the college of agriculture who's average score is 24-25. Average score for the entire University system is a 28. In fact I know a recent applicant personally who was waitlisted with a 4.0 (in college prep and AP courses), and a 33 ACT score.

Thus, KU does not compare to "comparable schools"

another_view 5 years, 9 months ago

I love KU too. But, until this year, the state has not reduced dollar state support for KU, for many years.

On the other hand, all universities typically argue the primary way to become a better university is to increase all faculty salaries across the board. They never talk about eliminating units, becoming more focused, eliminating duplication, or becoming more accountable.

Well, heck. If I am a KU prof, I would love a 20% increase to do the same job I am doing today. Sign me up.

Is that how we become a more highly ranked university? Faculty salary level?

If so, it may not be a good measure of productivity, or quality.

That logic is stupid, but that is the argument I usually read on the Journal World articles in the past from Chancellors and others.

Maybe unproductive, and lesser respected programs maybe could be trimmed and re-examined. Are there program duplications?

How many TV broadcast-journalism graduates does the State of Kansas or the World even need? Maybe two a year in Kansas, assuming no other university exists? How many new architects does Kansas need? Get me started here folks......

No Kansas higher ed professors have been fired, have had reductions in salaries, or health care benefits, or retirement benefits or anything else in this so-called crisis.

Is this the same economy going on in Parsons, Kansas? The answer is: No.

another_view 5 years, 9 months ago

Liberaldude.... provide some real numbers and citation source please. Until then, you are just full of bs. I love higher ed, but lies from people like you make things worse.

Ks higher ed has not received a 35% cut in 5 years. That is just a lie.

Name me just one tenured professor who has lost a job due to budget issues please, or had any salary reduction.

another_view 5 years, 9 months ago

Toe, you do not believe in public investments in education at all.... in public or higher education. So you can go home with Sarah Palin now and do things in the dug-out.

LiberalDude 5 years, 9 months ago

another_view- the 35% in 5 years quote was fletch's not mine. I just repeated it. I'll let fletch provide the source.

I don't know if that figure is accurate but I do know that the percentage of KU's budget that comes from state funding has decreased significantly in the past 20 years. In other words, the State has maintained its funding of higher education when inflation is taken into account. This didn't just happen this past year, it has been a pattern since the 80's. Maybe no faculty or staff salaries have gone down (some KU staff were laid off this year) but they haven't gone up much over the past 20 years either. In this timeframe the Kansas universities budgets have not kept up with the Jones'.

Godot 5 years, 9 months ago

The legislature should just give KU to the endowment association.

Boeing 5 years, 9 months ago

Alchemist - my fiance is one of those "Chicago kids that couldn't get in to U of I". She actually did get in to the U of I. The problem was, and is for many of those kids, that they cannot AFFORD the U of I. I can actually cost less to come out of state to KU than stay in state in Urbana. Is that what we want - an overpriced school where not even Kansans can pay for? I don't...

I would like your stats as to the factual basis for your argument that lots of the Chicago suburban kids out here are only here because they could not get in to Urbana.

another_view 5 years, 9 months ago

Liberaldude: "percentage of KU's budget that comes from state funding has decreased significantly"

Yes, but its budget has increased quite significantly, including state tax money. This just explains they have been raising tuition at rate over the the increases from the state.


Liberaldude: "but they haven't gone up much over the past 20 years either. "

That is simply not true. Considerable increases have been made to faculty salaries in the last 20 years.

DB Ashton 5 years, 9 months ago

The gentleman is dead on target and I don't see that he's opted state government out as either part of the problem or part of the solution. His politics are irrelevant.

He has simply initiated a much-needed dialogue, asked Kansans to see things as they are, and issued a challenge and a call to arms. Making Kansas University a top-50 institution is hardly an inappropriate, over-reaching vision and his comparative reference to sporting successes is right on as well.

We Hilltoppers have always overrated KU and -- rather than carping, or burying our beaks in the sand, or shifting blame, or moping around in denial – we should thank the man and get on with the job of becoming better, together.

bb837988 5 years, 9 months ago

As to streamlining the degree programs -

There may be two engineering schools but a better question may be how many students are being turned away? The numbers may warrant having two engineering schools. If both KU and KSU are turning away qualified students from their engineering schools due to lack of space, then both schools need the be expanded. More students = more tution money. And more graduates increase the number of alumni who will donate money to the program.

I doubt that KU had the facilities to handle the student load for both universities. And one purpose of higher rankings is to bring in more out of state students. They do pay more tuition.

smilboy99 5 years, 9 months ago

This is dead on target. I view athletics as entertainment and anyway it is just a game. Isn't it? Top ranked academic and reserach programs are real "meat". If the State is serious about improving its standing in the Union, a top ranked KU is a must.

WHY 5 years, 9 months ago

Just make KU the premier school, and funnel all the losers to K-State. One school will be top 25-50 the other will be 200+ but who cares about K-State anyway.

LloydDobbler 5 years, 9 months ago

It doesn't matter what the Regents do...the faculty and administrators at KU will just circumvent the process and resort to the old "fog a mirror" test anyway. They already are...KU has admissions standards that are routinely ignored, particularly in graduate programs, just to keep butts in seats and money flowing.

And why we're on the topic, how does going straight from undergraduate to a doctoral program really qualify someone to teach, particularly in business, engineering, or law? Can you really understand how business works, much less teach it, if you have never actually held a private sector job? We need a paradigm shift in how we prepare our kids in the early years and another one in who teaches them once they get to college.

MyName 5 years, 9 months ago

You did not refute my main thesis, that KU has an entrenched administrator culture that is unaccountable to performance. This results in a complacent, mediocre administrator class and thus a rudderless, listless, mediocre university.

Well since, in the past 6 months, the Chancellor (or CEO if it was a business) has retired, the Provost (or CFO) has left for a different University, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (e.g. a Sr. Vice President) has found another job, and a few other members of the "administrative class" has probably also left, I'd say the only response to your "thesis" is to question just how informed you really are.

I suppose if I wanted to be extremely charitable, I could suggest that maybe they all got the mental telepathic signals you were sending out when you were arm chair quarterbacking and magically agreed to just leave.

Or it could be that, since actually changes have been made by the administration in recent years, and that every one of those people I've mentioned (with the exception of the Chancellor) have gone on to better jobs somewhere else, maybe your "thesis" doesn't hold water.

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