Archive for Sunday, November 8, 2009

KU task force to focus on retaining students

November 8, 2009


Kansas University leaders are looking for ways to help retain students like Jon Kletsky.

Kletsky recently left KU after getting that dreaded letter from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences indicating his grades weren’t up to par.

He’s still focused on going to school and is enrolled in Johnson County Community College to try to get back to KU.

“I didn’t use the resources to my advantage, I feel,” said Kletsky, who still lives in Lawrence. “They keep track of your GPA online, and I thought, ‘Why did I not notice this before?’”

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the solution to higher retention rates is a complex one and will go well beyond situations like Kletsky’s.

The university plans to address the issue using a new task force that will study the issue and report back by early in the spring semester.

Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett, director of KU’s honors program, has served on committees that have addressed the issue in past years, and she said research points to one critical factor in determining whether a student will stay in school.

“The student needs to feel connected somehow to the university,” she said.

That can mean different things for different students. For some, it can be an adviser, and for others, it can be a resident assistant in the residence halls.

“It’s kind of ephemeral, but a student knows whether they’re connected or not,” McCluskey-Fawcett said.

She said that having many different avenues for connections, like clubs and organizations, can be important in retaining students.

KU does not have a staff member dedicated to retention efforts — something the task force may examine — and new policies could take the form of changes in different areas of KU that help retain students, including in admissions, advising and enrollment.

Retention rates have been in focus recently, as the Kansas Board of Regents have proposed setting a goal of improving retention rates 10 percent above the national averages of peer institutions in 10 years.

KU’s retention rate for freshmen is 77.5 percent, and the national average is 80 percent.

The focus really needs to go beyond those numbers, Gray-Little said, to focusing on retaining students at all levels until they graduate.

Gray-Little said she’s noticed that several students at KU seem to be interested in pursuing more than one major. She said one potential effort could focus on finding other ways to become very knowledgeable about a topic without spending as much time and effort as on a second major.

“I certainly understand and am really sympathetic toward learning and being knowledgeable,” Gray-Little said. “I don’t think that there are many instances in which having a dual major is going to make all the difference” for someone’s career aspirations.

Alternatives may include students taking large blocks of courses in other departments to encourage them to develop a specialty, Gray-Little said.

She said she appreciated the focus on the regents’ goals, and thought it was wise to include a 10-year timeframe for improvement.

Retention and graduation rates, coupled with improving research capabilities, have formed the crux of Gray-Little’s efforts so far as chancellor. Another committee will be formed to address ways to improve research, she said.

“These two things, to me, address what it means to be a research university,” she said.


Graczyk 8 years, 6 months ago

No offense to Jon, but why would a university want to retain a student that is not performing academically? Poor student performance hurts the university's graduation and GPA stats, but can also negatively affect the strong students by lowering classroom expectations.

davidsmom 8 years, 6 months ago

Graczyk - I think the goal is not to retain students who perform poorly academically, but to address some of the issues that may be responsible for that poor performance in the first place, such as areas where the University could improve.

tomatogrower 8 years, 6 months ago

We've forced our elementary schools and high schools to take on the role of being mommy to these kids, so their parents can be their buddies. Now we want the university to do it. There are plenty of support systems for students at the University, but the students have to go to them. That should not change. If the student isn't ready to help themselves, they aren't ready for University. They need to go away and grow up first. Companies are starting to have to baby this younger generation too. Why is growing up such a dirty word?

leeroy_johnson 8 years, 6 months ago

Graczyk: The problem with the University is that they have lost the mind set that the only reason they exist is to educate the students. They are not a private industry that should be able to make decision's regarding who and who should not get an education. It doesn't matter if a student is on probation. You said "why would a university want to retain a student that is not performing academically?". Because its their job to help students. That is the only thing the University should be focused on. But with most companies, they have forgotten that the customer is always right. I don't think that we should be focusing on only allowing select people to obtain a better education. If people are having trouble, do what you can to help them instead of just "letting them go".

JackRipper: "If a student who is supposedly college prepared can't figure out how to overcome these issues they are not college prepared and most likely no reason to be at a college." And what are "these" issues? I will tell you one of the issues. The University is the only place you can get a job and not have any qualifications. I have had some teachers at KU that should never be allowed to teach. They may know the subject but have no experience in relaying it on in a helpful way to students. Its not up to the University to pick and choose who they feel is fit to stay. Everybody should be able to get a higher education. It's sad that KU feels their current group of students are not good enough. They only focus on making their rank in the polls.

gsxr600 8 years, 6 months ago

Is he really playing dumb about not knowing what his GPA is? It's on the same freaking page you view your final grades on! C'mon. Blame everyone but yourself, that's the spirit.

Graczyk 8 years, 6 months ago


I think your comparison of a university to a consumer corporation is interesting, but not accurate. If a student does not do his reading for class, if he right? If a student is having trouble with a concept but does not ask for help, is she right? A university is unable to help students who do not prepare. Nor should they. I would wager that most students who flunk out of college do so because of lack of discipline - not because the course work was too hard. Additionally, I am not aware of any institution of higher learning that would refuse help to a struggling student. You can lead a student to a book, but you can't make him read.

parrothead8 8 years, 6 months ago

leeroy_johnson (Anonymous) says… Its not up to the University to pick and choose who they feel is fit to stay. Everybody should be able to get a higher education. It's sad that KU feels their current group of students are not good enough.

Really, leeroy? It's not up to the U to pick and choose who gets to stay? Everyone should get a higher education?

So...should universities just let in anyone who applies, and let them stay no matter how they perform?

And don't hand me that line about universities being "the only place" where you don't need qualifications to get a job. Everybody works or has worked at a place where they have co-workers who make them wonder, "Man, how did THAT idiot get a job here?"

leeroy_johnson 8 years, 6 months ago


Why shouldn't everyone have the opportunity to get a higher education?. So yes Really. The scale of performance needs to be monitored not only for students, but teachers as well.

And that line about qualifications is a hand out I will continue to give. To give you a little scope of my thought, lets look into the LAW for the state of Kansas and its requirements for teachers.

Applicant requirements for an initial teaching license - Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university - Completion of a state-approved teacher preparation program - Recency - means the applicant must have at least 8 credit hours or one year of accredited teaching experience completed within the last six years - Content assessment in each of the endorsement areas you were trained to teach and wish to put on your license - Pedagogy assessment - Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT)

Now, how many of the teachers fulfill this requirement? Im pretty sure alot of the GTA's don't. Why is this exception allowed at the University level? So just because everyone has had a "how did he/she get this job" moment, doesn't make it right. Ask why, like this task force is trying to do.

I agree with everyone else that if a student doesn't ask for help it shouldn't be the responsibility of the school to make up for it. But a real example that has happened may explain some, at least 1, of the teachers that are allowed to teach at KU. Just last week one of my teachers said that because he was working late the prior week he would not be in his office during his scheduled office hours because he had already allocated previous time. This was the same week as a 20% exam. It would have been nice to go and ask the teacher some of the questions I had. So instead of being able to go get help, I had to go to the department and see if one of the other teachers would help. This teacher should be fired. If I told my boss that I couldn't stay late when there is a problem because of previous hours worked, I would be fired. I don't dislike the University, but it is far from being perfect. So I do compare the University to a consumer corporation. Their sole reason is to help students. That is it. The University and a lot of companies have forgotten that the customer comes first.

leeroy_johnson 8 years, 6 months ago

beobachter, I don't mean to put down all the teachers. There are some great ones. But I feel like the University as a whole is more concerned with $ than helping the students.

leeroy_johnson 8 years, 6 months ago

Jack, As your description, do you think they are fulfilling that role?

Beobachter, I really hope you aren't a teacher. But because you said you are, what class do you teach?

leeroy_johnson 8 years, 6 months ago

By the way jack, as a place described as "for those who thirst for knowledge and seek it", why should everyone have to pay for something only a select few desire?

leeroy_johnson 8 years, 6 months ago

I am going to step out on the ledge here and said that a vast majority of the students at KU attend school because of the requirement you listed above. I agree that its not right. But there are no other options. Employers look for that degree. But you won't see any change because the University doesn't want to see its numbers drop. So that is why I liken it to a business.

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