Archive for Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Admissions action

The Kansas Board of Regents should move carefully on increased university admissions requirements, but the proposal on the table looks like a reasonable step.

December 8, 2010


There are strong arguments in favor of increasing admissions requirements for Kansas students who want to attend state universities, but the Kansas Board of Regents is right to give careful consideration to any admissions changes.

The regents plan to discuss increased requirements at their Dec. 16 meeting and again in January. The proposal before them would significantly raise admissions requirements for Kansas high school graduates, who currently must be admitted to a state university if they meet one of three standards: completion of a specified pre-college curriculum, an ACT score of 21 or higher or a ranking in the top-third of their high school class.

Under the new plan students would have to rank in the top third of their class or get a qualifying score on either the ACT or SAT college admissions test in addition to completing a pre-college curriculum with at least a 2.0 grade average.

State higher education officials fought for years before gaining legislative approval for the current admissions standards in 1996. Before that, state universities had to admit any graduate of an accredited Kansas high school regardless of his or her academic standing or test scores. The new admissions standards were written into state statute, but last year, legislation was passed giving the Board of Regents the authority to set more stringent standards.

Now, it appears the regents are ready to use that authority.

There was an appealing populist argument in favor of the old “open admissions” policy. The theory was that everyone deserved a chance to make the grade at a taxpayer-supported university. However, that argument started to fall away as state support for higher education declined and universities found it necessary to tighten their belts. Students who aren’t prepared for university work are a financial drain on the universities as well as their families. It serves no one for either universities or students and families to expend precious resources on a university career that almost certainly will end in failure.

In addition to the proposed standards being considered by the regents, individual universities also are allowed to propose even higher admissions standards for their own schools. Kansas University is expected to make such a request.

There is a danger, of course, that state universities will overreach on this concept, but it was noted when the state gave the regents authority to increase admissions standards that public sentiment on the issue would rein in higher education if it went too far afield.

Kansas students still deserve a chance at a university education, and the state has many fine community colleges with open admissions policies that can help students prepare for university work. Using community colleges as a feeder system for four-year institutions is a positive use of state and student resources.

The proposed new admissions requirements might actually push Kansas high schools to produce more students who are prepared for university work. That would be great, but, in today’s financial climate, state universities can no longer afford to be the place that ill-prepared students either catch up or drop out.


HonestAbe1981 7 years, 6 months ago

The state of Kansas is far behind in many areas when it comes to higher education. The Regents admissions standards are embarrassing (so are the proposed new standards). Kansas is one of the least populated states in the country (a declining population to boot), and we have one governing board trying to manage and set policies for 19 community colleges and 6 regents institutions. It's a one size fits all approach, which isn't effective.

Admissions standards obviously need to be tougher, but when are other important conversations going to start taking place in light of declining state support and declining population? Why do we have duplication of programs at various universities - seems like an obvious drain on state resources. Many states governing boards ensure only one of their institutions offer architecture or engineering or business. Do we need the number of higher ed options we currently have? - I doubt it.

The Regents need to make some tough decisions. 1. Eliminate program duplication 2. Establish a pecking order for admissions. Kansas has numerous options for access to higher ed if you can't make it at the top schools in Kansas - prove yourself and then transfer 3. The community colleges need their own governing board and the large universities collectively need their own board.....I'd go so far as to say that KU and KSU need their own Regents boards - a lot of large universities have their own boards - those universities are progressive are able to make quick decisions and avoid to political BS that exists in higher ed today.

Its not rocket science - Admissions standards are the trigger point. If universities are allowed to be more selective, they have a better prepared student body. Rankings go up. With higher rankings you attract top faculty. With top faculty you attract more research dollars. Rankings go up even more - the end result is a much large return on investment to the state of Kansas.

Regents and KS politicians need to stop over thinking this stuff and stop trying to keep everything fair - life isn't fair. The current as*backwards approach will continue to handcuff the state of Kansas higher education system.

jafs 7 years, 6 months ago

As far as I can tell, the only substantive difference in the new proposal is the requirement that students obtain a "C" grade in college prep courses.

That still seems rather low to me, and not worth the "caution" that Dolph advises.

Thunderdome 7 years, 6 months ago

Three important points to consider: 1. Admissions criteria doesn't stop the Business School from admitting anyone they choose, so if new standards are imposed, there must be provisions to audit admissions. 2. If new standards are imposed, as a state, we better have alternative and legitimate educational opportunities in place and audited to meet a secondary set of standards. 3. We also must work with employers to develop and maintain career tracks for all students.

For far too long, there has been no legitimate policy link between higher education and economic development.

davidsmom 7 years, 6 months ago

I agree that the new standards are still embarrassingly low. Too many freshmen arrive on campus unable to do college-level work, and this has become an increasing problem across the nation (this is not speculation on my part because I work at a university and read The Chronicle of Higher Education every day.) We can't fix all the reasons for this at once, but raising the admissions standards to state-assisted and state universities is a start. More and more freshmen have to take remedial classes to bring them up to speed on what they should have learned in high school, and these remedial classes, which cost both families and the institutions, cannot count toward a degree. Students who are not prepared for true college-level work should be at community colleges taking transitional coursework before transferring to a four-year college or university. For heaven's sake, RAISE THE ADMISSIONS STANDARDS! And then get to work fixing K-12, including demanding more out of our students.

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