Archive for Sunday, February 15, 2009

Regents ready ‘to cut leash’

Higher education advocates seek more autonomy from Legislature

February 15, 2009


— While fighting against the possibility of double-digit cuts in state funding, higher education advocates are also working another front — trying to persuade the Legislature to give the schools more autonomy.

At a recent committee hearing, state Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City, described it as “cutting the leash.”

Several bills in the hopper would give higher education institutions and the Kansas Board of Regents more say in the operations of the schools.

Among those are House Bill 2197, which would allow the regents to set admissions standards at state universities, and House Bill 2007, which would allow the regents to authorize higher education institutions the ability to award grants to students in the form of fellowships, scholarships and waivers of fees and tuition.

Regent Gary Sherrer, who headed a task force recommending HB 2197, said the regents are more involved in the day-to-day oversight of universities and better equipped than the Legislature to make decisions about admissions standards.

For example, Sherrer said, there is a requirement that to attend a regents institution, a student must have taken a computer class in high school. That requirement was written into state law more than a decade ago and doesn’t take into account that most students today have been learning computer skills since pre-school. The regents should have the power to jettison that computer class requirement without having to seek a change in state law, Sherrer said.

Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway said the tuition waiver bill would enable the school to “recruit students with existing family ties to our state to attend KU.” The school is seeking a program that would allow it to reduce the out-of-state tuition rate for the children of KU alumni who are living out of state.

The sought-after changes would give schools more responsibility and the ability to meet their challenges in a more timely manner, officials said.

The current qualified admission standards were placed in state law in 1996.

The law says 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.

Sherrer said the qualified admission standards have served the state well, but now it is time to move on and give schools more leeway.

David Brant, who served on the task force with Sherrer, agreed, saying, “Our current system may not be broken but it certainly needs to be updated.”

The proposed measure would allow the Kansas Board of Regents to establish admission standards that could be different for each university and based on each institution’s mission.


Godot 9 years, 2 months ago

While the Congress demands the right to set salaries and dividend payouts of the companies that have taken TARP money, the Board of Regents demands that the taxpayers have nothing whatsoever to say about the huge sums of money the universities extract from them.

I say no.

Godot 9 years, 2 months ago

Now, if they were to cut all strings, including taxpayer funding, I would say, resoundingly, yes!

davidsmom 9 years, 2 months ago

We don't vote on the selection of Chancellor or any other University administrator, yet they make decisions that affect how our tax money is used. I see no reason why we need not let the Regents take over the authority now being held by the Legislature. I say yes.

janeyb 9 years, 2 months ago

I with you Godot. As long as it is taxpayer money, the legislature needs to control the strings. If the universities want to give up the state funding--then let them run with it.

Thinking_Out_Loud 9 years, 2 months ago

The Board is clearly more qualified than the Legislature for many things. Setting higher education policy is one of those things. In no way would this bill diminish the Legislature's oversight. It would still have the ability to call in the Universities, Community Colleges, and Technical Schools for committee hearings. It would still have the Post-Audit pit bulls. But people closer to the work actually being done would have authority for the actual decisions, with accountability to the Legislature. (To whom is the Legislature accountable? Hypothetically to the voters, although I don't see much evidence from many of them that they take that accountability seriously.)

More importantly, the Legislature has dramatically slashed its contribution to the Regents institutions over the last dozen or 15 years. With increased responsibility to raise its own funding (whether from grants, student tuition, or what-have-you) should come increased autonomy. Indeed, with stupid statutes--like the one requiring a computer class for admission--there is an argument that the Universities have received less funding and been given less autonomy.

I support such legislation, and intend to tell Representative Ballard and Senator Francisco I desire they support it.

I would also support the Legislature giving up all pretense that they even have an interest in supporting higher education in this State, and zeroing out funds to any higher education institution in Kansas. Finally, I believe they should abandon the Statehouse, turning it over to a trust to refurbish and turn into a museum of some sort. There are plenty of underutilized buildings at Forbes Field which have adequate space for the Legislature to conduct its business. (Am I bitter about how the Legislature has failed over the years to care for its resources such as the Statehouse and the Universities? Yup. And if the Legislature can't take care of its nice things, I don't believe we should allow it to have nice things.)

Wow. That was more of a rant than I intended.... Umm, I like the Board's proposal.

yourworstnightmare 9 years, 2 months ago

The proportion of the KU budget that comes from the state has been dropping steadily for some time. Right now it is around 20%, less than both tuition revenue and external research dollars.

KU needs to divorce itself from the State and the numbskulls who run it.

A large tuition increase combined with aggressive fundraising and pursuit of research dollars could easily make up for the paltry state contribution. A temporary increase in the use of endowment funds might also be necessary.

The big sticking point is the land, buildings and holdings of KU, which the state would need to donate. This would be in exchange for never having to give KU another state appropriation again.

Let's do it.

Godot 9 years, 2 months ago

The "numbskulls" in the legislature are the product of the esteemed regents institutions. Karma.

yourworstnightmare 9 years, 2 months ago

Would that it were. A casual survey of Kansas representatives and senators indicates that many of them have no post-high school education.

I could not find statistics on the education demographics of the Kansas legislature.

Does anyone know where to find this information?

monkeyspunk 9 years, 2 months ago

While the Regents are definitely more qualified to create admissions standards than the legislature, part of me wants to know:

Do they intend to lower admission standards?

If so, I have to ask why? Any lower would encourage young people who should not attend a 4 year university to waste their money when it would be more well spent attending a tech school or community college. Recent studies have shown that students who graduate in the bottom 40% of their HS class and then attend a four year institution, have only a 1 in 3 chance of ever obtaining their bachelor's.

I would be very interested to know their intentions before they cut the strings.

Kuku_Kansas 9 years, 2 months ago

Godot: The “numbskulls” in the legislature are the product of the esteemed regents institutions. Karma.

The LJ-World printed a story about a year or two ago that cited less than 30% of the KS Legislature even attended college. Karma, perhaps?

Bubarubu 9 years, 2 months ago

"Do they intend to lower admission standards?"

The Regents would like differentiated admissions standards for different schools in the state. The problem of academically unprepared students attending KU already exists. Maintaining educational opportunities for those students through community colleges (where they can build knowledge and skills) and smaller state schools (where they will get more attention and assistance from faculty with fewer research responsibilities), while raising the standards at KU to improve student retention and graduation rates is a good goal and one that recognizes the differences in the missions of research universities and teaching universities.

yourworstnightmare 9 years, 2 months ago

KU is doing surprisingly well despite the outright antipathy for it displayed by many in the legislature.

Just think of where KU could be if it had the support of the legislature.

Gosh, maybe as good as state universities in states that care about higher education, such as Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Time for KU to break from the ligatures of the state and set tuition based upon the market of supply and demand rather than on some anachronistic notion of keeping college education prices low for Kansans.

The state abandoned this idea when it failed to live up to its fiscal responsibilities regarding KU and other regents' universities.

janeyb 9 years, 2 months ago

The more I thought about this "cutting the leash" and giving schools more autonomy, the might I thought about how well autonomy and self-regulation worked for the banking/mortgage industry.

KU probably needs to lower its standards so they can give the out-of-state legacy kids those tuition waivers.

Evan Ridenour 9 years, 2 months ago

If the legislature wants tuition to be more affordable maybe they should try actually FUNDING higher education.

FYI, KU doesn't want to lower admission standards they want to RAISE them and they should. It is ridiculous the kinds of people who are being admitted to KU.

araker 9 years, 2 months ago

In Indiana, each campus of the Indiana University System gets to set its own admission standards. Purdue can do the same with its 6 campuses. Ball State, Indiana State, and Southern Indiana have their own individual standards as well, because each university serves the state in its own way. I fail to see why this change should not be implemented in Kansas. I'm all in support of increasing access to education; however, such access needs to be appropriate to each student's needs, and this cannot be done by having the same standards for every public university.

Shardwurm 9 years, 2 months ago

"A large tuition increase combined with aggressive fundraising and pursuit of research dollars could easily make up for the paltry state contribution."

Like tuition isn't already killing the middle class. Over-paid professors, administrators, and plain old bloat has driven the cost of an education to insane levels for an average middle class family. Not only that - these classes in many cases are being taught by a grad student with the professor never even being seen.

We did the FAFSA for my son the other day. The government seems to think I provide him with $35,000 and my daughter $25,000 a year for school. That's about $90,000 of gross income they expect me to fork over. Um...LOL? I guess the rest of us in the family are expected to sleep in a shelter while they go to school.

Higher education is a big fat rip-off. For what my children pay for 1 stinking credit hour I could have gone full time for a semester 25 years ago. I think if you check we haven't had 1500 percent inflation in that timeframe.

Thinking_Out_Loud 9 years, 2 months ago

monkey, the comment that "...Any lower would encourage young people who should not attend a 4 year university to waste their money when it would be more well spent attending a tech school or community college..." is the worst sort of paternalistic elitism. I think in a free society the individual is responsible to make a decision for him/herself, and there are consequences for poor decision-making.

Shardwurm, your math is off. $35K + $25K is $60K, not $90K.

MFallon 9 years, 2 months ago

to Shardwurm - $60K is a big expected family contribution. You ought to have a professional student aid advisor and FAFSA preparer double check your application. (the largest and oldest one has a call center in town). You may have made an error that the Dept. of ED's computer program doesn't pick up - like including your primary residence as an asset or miscalculating the adjusted gross income and unintentionally increased your family contribution thereby lowering your aid package.

Godot 9 years, 2 months ago

"Kuku_Kansas (Anonymous) says…

Godot: The “numbskulls” in the legislature are the product of the esteemed regents institutions. Karma.

The LJ-World printed a story about a year or two ago that cited less than 30% of the KS Legislature even attended college. Karma, perhaps?"

Who teaches the K-12 teachers? You can run, but you cannot hide.

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