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Archive for Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Regents discuss possible changes to admission standards at state colleges

Gray-Little says increased requirements would help boost graduation rates

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little attended the Kansas Board of Regents retreat on Wednesday in Wichita. In the foreground is Washburn University President Jerry Farley. The regents worked on numerous issues, including funding, research and admissions requirements.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little attended the Kansas Board of Regents retreat on Wednesday in Wichita. In the foreground is Washburn University President Jerry Farley. The regents worked on numerous issues, including funding, research and admissions requirements.

August 26, 2009

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— The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday indicated it would appoint a task force to consider recommending changes to the admission standards at state universities.

The decision made during the regents retreat came after a challenge by Gov. Mark Parkinson to improve the academic standing of the Kansas higher education system.

Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said she believed increasing the admissions standards “would move you toward students with better preparation,” and eventually better graduation rates.

Gray-Little, who recently came to KU from the University of North Carolina, said in North Carolina there is a systemwide base of admissions standards and each university can increase those standards as they see fit.

A law approved by the Legislature during the last session allows the regents to adopt different admission standards for regents universities. The measure was pushed by KU, where officials say they hope to propose tougher standards soon.

The current admission standards, which were placed in state law in 1996, say that students may be admitted to a regents university if they have graduated from an accredited high school and have either an ACT score of 21, rank in the top third of their high school class or earn at least a 2.0 grade-point average on a prescribed curriculum.

On Wednesday, Regents Chairwoman Jill Docking said she believed a task force could produce a report in six months to nine months.

Docking said she believed the admission standards weren’t tough enough. “I find the qualifications we have now are not adequate. I would like to see the whole system rise,” she said.

Based on the discussion of regents and university chiefs, the task force will look at a systemwide recommendation because higher standards at one school could impact enrollment at other Kansas institutions.

And regents members said they wanted to have representatives from high schools on the task force since they will have to prepare students for the college admissions. Under state law, any change would not be implemented for four years in order to give students time to adjust to the changes through high school.

On Tuesday, Gov. Parkinson kicked off the regents meeting by making a critical assessment of higher education in Kansas, and presented goals to increase its national standing.

He said that overall, the higher education system in Kansas was mediocre, the national rankings of regents universities too low, and the retention of students and graduation rates below the national average.

He called for a 10-year plan by the Kansas Board of Regents and schools to improve their academic operations. Step one, he said, was to implement tougher admission standards, particularly at KU.

Comments

Bubarubu 4 years, 7 months ago

con't. The endpoint of your argument is that there should be no minimum standards to meet. Students of taxpayers should be granted open admission to all state-supported universities. That is the surest way to destroy the reputation of Kansas schools and thus diminish the value of the diplomas they grant.

"Now, if they are not qualified, as in your opinion, then the complaint is with the K-12 system. If you don't want them, fine, just refund some of us our tax dollars for paying for your approach. Employees of the state universities are responsible to the taxpayer. I agree with edjayhawk."

There are plenty of complaints about the K-12 system, to be sure, but perpetually tying that stone around the higher ed system just ensures they sink together. Higher ed standards help drive K-12 improvements. 120 years ago, Harvard started requiring writing and composition courses. That led to high schools offering writing and composition courses so their students would be more likely to get in to Harvard. If KU, KSU, and WSU raise their standards for admission, KS high schools will have to raise their standards as well. This is, by the way, a very good thing.

As for getting your money back, we all pay for lots of things we never use. I paid taxes that funded elementary schools in the state, but my kids will never go to school in Kansas. Roads Hays and Salina, law enforcement in Colby and Garden City, Medicaid coverage for families in Atcheson, all things I helped pay for that I never use. So, first of all, get over it. Second, state funds only cover 1/4-1/3 of KU's budget every year (and I would guess a similar percentage for KSU), so no one is anywhere near as beholden to you as you think. Third, it's called a common good. I never use the elementary schools, but it's good that all of the kids in the state will be able to go. I have never been on Medicaid, but it's better that families have access to medical care. It's better for the state to have outstanding institutions of higher ed because it improves the reputation of the state overall, improves the quality of life for people throughout the state, and an educated populace is a major driver behind companies' decisions to relocate. If the reputation of Kansas higher ed is low-quality, low-achievement, that doesn't benefit anyone.

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Bubarubu 4 years, 7 months ago

"There is nothing absurb about not wanting to restrict admission to any and alll high school graduates to a tax supported school."

A state-supported school, sure. Every state-supported school? That doesn't do anything for those students or for the state. There are seven four-year universities under the regents' authority, and the idea that all of them should be held to identically low standards for admission is foolish. Missouri runs three separate state-supported systems, and there are differences between and within those systems. By creating a single campus with a unique mission and highly selective admissions, the state was able to get one of their universities (Truman State) into the top ten for Midwest master's-level rankings. By intensively focusing one campus on engineering (UM-Rolla, now Mo Univ of Science and Technology), they were able to foster an outstanding program with one of the strongest reputations in the field. Holding every school to the same minimal standard just means that none of them are ever able to distinguish themselves. Allowing variable admissions standards also doesn't close off state-supported higher ed either, since there are four master's-level universities in the state who would still be able to serve a lot of students. Actually, they could grow as students who can't get into KU or KSU choose Ft. Hays or Pitt. St., where they can get smaller classes and faculty who are more focused on teaching. Better for the students, better for the schools, better for the state. Texas does the same thing with selected flagship campuses that have higher admissions standards, and somehow they seem to be getting along. California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, etc., etc., etc. All of those states have state-supported research universities that are well-regarded, and they also have variable admissions standards. The examples are pretty clear.

"They and their famillies paid taxes too. Keeping them in college is another issue, but they should at least have a chance to get in."

They have a chance to get in: high school. If you live in Texas and want to go to UT, you know from day one that you had better be in the top 10% of your high school class because it is extraordinarily difficult for an in-state student to get admitted to UT otherwise. So, you work, you study, you take advanced courses, you do the things that will get you qualified. If you don't have the grades or the test scores to get into KU or KSU, then you go elsewhere. If you don't have the grades to go elsewhere, you go to community college. By the way, don't read into that some measure of elitism that big school=better school. The mission of a big school was not a good fit for me as an undergrad, so I went to a small school where I thrived. Different strokes for different folks, and all.

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Phillbert 4 years, 7 months ago

bombcat - According to the transcript of Parkinson's speech the other day that the LJW posted, here's what the rankings are based on. Notice that only 25 percent of it is based on anything related to a student's success, and that ends at graduation as there's nothing about employment after graduation.

Parkinson: "Here are the criteria that U.S. New utilizes: Peer Assessment is 25 percent; Graduation and Retention Rate is 20 percent; Faculty Resources is 20 percent; Student Selectivity is 15 percent; Financial Resources is 10 percent; Alumni Giving is 5 percent; and Graduation Rate Performance is 5 percent."

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davidsmom 4 years, 7 months ago

I pay tax dollars for roads in western Kansas that I may never use. I pay tax dollars for a lot of things that I will never use or for things with which I disagree. That doesn't mean I should ask for my money back. Higher education should be a privilege for those who are prepared. A lot of underprepared students would actually do better in high school if they knew admissions standards to KU were higher. But because admissions standards are so incredibly low, they know they can mess around and not work hard and still get into KU. Certainly community colleges are a good destination for students who are not yet ready for the university. And don't forget how much tax dollars we spend on the increasing trend (and this is true around the country) of having to offer more and more remedial classes to college freshmen who get in and then can't even make it in a regular freshman-level class. Our students deserve to have us demand their best.

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Jackie Jackasserson 4 years, 7 months ago

college is not for the average or below average student. and it shouldn't be. everyone does not have an absolute right to a college education. and if that smacks of elitism, oh well. it is higher education after all - meaning kids should have some requisite skill in academics. a college can't be distinguished if it lets in every student with a C average or better.

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Zachary Stoltenberg 4 years, 7 months ago

But isn't it a waste of taxpayer dollars to have these kids come unprepared for college, mess around a few semesters and then drop out? Couldn't those wasted resources be better spent on helping students who are prepared pay for school? Orgive them more available resources once they prove themselves in college? I would be curious as tithe attrician rates at universities that already have higher standards vs. those that go with the state minimums.

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KS 4 years, 7 months ago

Bubarubu - There is nothing absurb about not wanting to restrict admission to any and alll high school graduates to a tax supported school. They and their famillies paid taxes too. Keeping them in college is another issue, but they should at least have a chance to get in. Now, if they are not qualified, as in your opinion, then the complaint is with the K-12 system. If you don't want them, fine, just refund some of us our tax dollars for paying for your approach. Employees of the state universities are responsible to the taxpayer. I agree with edjayhawk.

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Bubarubu 4 years, 7 months ago

It takes a special sort of absurdity to say that valuing minimal levels of academic achievement is elitism. Even more so to make the argument that, by law, all state-supported schools in Kansas should admit the exact same students, ensuring that none of them can ever distinguish themselves.

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bombcat 4 years, 7 months ago

Admittedly, it has been a while since I looked at how rankings were established, but my understanding is that they are very heavily weighted towards rewarding job placement and income after graduation as well as employer feedback on the quality of the graduate. Is anyone certain of the metrics currently used?

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edjayhawk 4 years, 7 months ago

And this just in: elitism is alive and well in higher education.

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