Archive for Tuesday, June 29, 2010

KU task force aims to boost grad, retention rates

Numbers put university near bottom of Big 12

Kansas University is near the bottom of the Big 12 Conference for both student retention and graduation rates. Only 80 percent of freshman students return for their sophomore year and only 60 percent of students graduate in six years.

June 29, 2010


Big 12 universities

Scores of retention and graduation rates of Big 12 schools. Retention rates are listed first, then graduation rates:

Texas A&M;: 92, 78

Texas: 91, 78

Baylor: 86, 73

Missouri: 85, 69

Iowa State: 84, 67

Colorado: 84, 67

Nebraska: 84, 64

Oklahoma: 83, 60

Kansas: 80, 60

Texas Tech: 80, 57

Oklahoma State: 77, 60

Kansas State: 74, 58

— Statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Retention rates reflect the percentage of 2007 first-year students who came back in 2008. Graduation rates reflect percentage of 2002 students who graduated in six years.

Kansas University lags behind the country, and much of the Big 12, when it comes to student graduation and retention rates.

In 2008, 80 percent of first-year students returned for a second year at KU, placing the university in a tie for 10th in the Big 12 and below the national public university average of 87 percent. And only three out of five KU students who start a degree graduate within six years, also placing KU near the bottom compared with its Big 12 peers.

The numbers are a concern for the university, and a new initiative from Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little aims to change that.

“We’re not where we should be, and we’re not where the chancellor wants us to be ... and we’re probably not where the parents of students want us to be,” said KU professor Chris Haufler, whom Gray-Little appointed to a task force designed to beef up KU’s numbers.

Haufler, who chairs KU’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, will assist incoming Provost Jeffrey Vitter on the task force.

The creation of the task force shows this is a priority for the chancellor, Haufler said.

“I think the chancellor’s very concerned and the incoming provost is also very concerned — and rightly so,” he said.

The good news, Haufler said, is that the university has a lot of options in how to address the problem.

Gray-Little said that it starts with emphasizing more experiential learning opportunities, include expanded roles for students in research, and providing opportunities for developing capacities for leadership and citizenship.

Recommendations from the Task Force Report on Retention and Timely Graduation include:

• Reducing graduation requirements from 124 credit hours to 120 credit hours to match peer institutions.

• Update KU’s general education requirements, as “one in five students who have met the goals of their majors fail to graduate because they have not satisfied general education coursework.”

• The implementation of an “early-warning system” for students struggling in their freshman year.

• Increase involvement of undergraduate students in research and service learning projects.


SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 12 months ago

One way to boost retention rates is to charge dropouts the full cost of their wasted semesters. No more taxpayer subsidies for young people who either don't go to class or who flunk out. No more gravy train for those who enroll in regent universities but never intend to graduate.

Bonkers823 7 years, 12 months ago

Uhm really? Yeah, that makes sense, let's not pay attention to the fact that some people drop out because THEY CAN'T AFFORD THE HUGE BILL! Your idea is a lot like "tax the poor."

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 12 months ago

I'm basing my claims on what should be apparent to all.

If a student only has to pay 1/3 of the approximate $21,000 annual cost of their KU education (reality today) while leaving the taxpayer to pay for the other $14,000, that student is more likely to drop out or flunk out than a student who has to pay for the actual cost of their semesters at school.

Bonkers823 7 years, 12 months ago

Hahaha...I had to drop out and I was paying for my classes! I don't think that plan would work.

deec 7 years, 12 months ago

The students already paid for their "wasted semesters." Its called tuition/fees. Perhaps the annual steep increases in those fees causes some of those students to quit college. Perhaps the inefficiencies in the student financial aid office contribute. Indifferent advising could also be a reason,.

blindrabbit 7 years, 12 months ago

While one Hemmingway wrote "The Sun Also Rises" another, laid the foundation for "The Sun Sets" for educational integrity at the University of Kansas. If this survey was conducted pre-#2, KU would have fared much better.

KU_cynic 7 years, 12 months ago

Easing some graduation requirements and doing more freshman year "babysitting" will have some effect on graduation/retention rates.

However, the most effective levers to pull are admissions requirements: increasing required ACT scores and higher GPAs and being more strict about high school curriculum requirements would have the largest effect on retention by screening out the "usual suspects" before they delusionally enroll at KU.

Does that mean that many Kansas high school grads won't make the KU cut? Yes, indeed. Shame on their parents and their school districts if they were to think they've prepared them for KU -- because in too many cases they simply have not.

BigPrune 7 years, 12 months ago

Does KU still hire people that speak English? When I went there were a lot that couldn't speak English.

Bonkers823 7 years, 12 months ago

No. I seriously had to Google some of the lecture topics because I couldn't understand the TA.

Sean Livingstone 7 years, 12 months ago

If you only speak English and you cannot understand English with other accents, you are the problem. Being a native English speaker also means that you have to understand English with other accents, and also English that isn't well-spoken. You can speak broken Mandarin, for example, and Mandarin with heavy accents in China, Chinese still know what you're talking about.

Fatty_McButterpants 7 years, 12 months ago

Way wrong answer.

If one pays the University several thousand dollars each year to take classes then one should, at the very least, have a competent instructor. A major part of that competency is being able to clearly and effectively communicate the course material, not straining the interpretive skills of the students.

Sean Livingstone 7 years, 12 months ago

A competent instructor = someone who know his/her subject. If the instructor is teaching English, sure, that's a problem. But if the instructor is teaching Engineering, Maths or Science, he/she needs to use the universal language. Many non-English speaking countries are now way ahead of the English speaking countries in Maths and Science scores. Many of these students do not speak English, countries like Sweden, China, Japan, Denmark... they bother to learn English. Many of the Mathematical and Scientific terms were not termed in English, many in Arabic, Latin, and some even Japanese. They're translated into English at some point in time in history. They're made easy for the English speakers. With a rapidly globalized economies, and we want to export more of our products overseas, we should let our students learn how to interpret accents from different English. Other countries learn English so that they can export to the English speaking markets. They learn English the hard way.... why are we making lives so easy for our own students?

Fatty_McButterpants 7 years, 12 months ago

First, your argument is just a little off. We are not talking about an American living in Beijing, Stockholm, or Delhi that is complaining of not being able to understand the instructors English. We are talking about American students taking classes in the U.S. - where English is the primary mode of communicating educational concepts - who are not able to understand their instructor(s) because of that instructor's terrible English.

Second, the fact that non-English speaking countries are outscoring the U.S. is not because the students of those countries are able to understand English better than Americans; it's because they emphasize those subjects more.

Sean Livingstone 7 years, 12 months ago

They do speak good English, but with heavy accents... they aren't able to teach if they don't pass an English test that KU sets for them. Check out your facts.

Fatty_McButterpants 7 years, 12 months ago

First, your argument is just a little off. We are not talking about an American living in Beijing, Stockholm, or Delhi that is complaining of not being able to understand the instructors English. We are talking about American students taking classes in the U.S. - where English is the primary mode of communicating educational concepts - who are not able to understand their instructor(s) because of that instructor's terrible English.

Second, the fact that non-English speaking countries are outscoring the U.S. is not because the students of those countries are able to understand English better than Americans; it's because they emphasize those subjects more.

Sean Livingstone 7 years, 12 months ago

"Second, the fact that non-English speaking countries are outscoring the U.S. is not because the students of those countries are able to understand English better than Americans; it's because they emphasize those subjects more."

Yes, none of the countries in the world emphasize on language, they emphasize on those subjects. As long as you can communicate in basic English... check out your facts.. they don't speak "terrible" English, they speak with accents. They have to pass an English test that KU sets for them. As long as they have sufficient English skills, they'll have the basic language skills. The only problem is that students may not understand their accents.

Sean Livingstone 7 years, 12 months ago

Even google has developed an online translation tool. It's time to learn things from other cultures, and learn to listen and interpret heavy accents. That's part of learning... competent instructors are those who can clearly relate the knowledge to you. Put yourself in China, or France, and stop speaking English... now, try and sell them something.... difficult right? Well... what do you need to do? Learn how to speak French or Chinese. The French will buy from you if you speak broken French. Many classes around the world are learning from the United States, as they convert their classes into English. Their students learn to adapt to different types of English, with different accents, Australian, British, Afrikaan, and American (yes, we all speak with accents). This is how they force their students to learn subjects, and they adapt. And we're going to let our students easy way out... and start complaining about their instructors and how other countries treat us unfairly? A generation lost. They pay tuition too. Their approach to life is that you have to learn from others. Where is our spirit of learning?

Sean Livingstone 7 years, 12 months ago

"If one pays the University several thousand dollars each year to take classes then one should, at the very least, have a competent instructor. "

Competent by subject, and not by language. Other countries also pay thousands of dollars.... at MIT, they pay more but get very heavily accent overseas instructors (even from Scotland, Scottish accent is heavier than Japanese accent English), to teach important classes. The difference? Students are more willing to learn. If you want an easy life... get it elsewhere.

Bonkers823 7 years, 12 months ago

Seriously...I don't have a problem with accents. It was this person's particular accent. He even ADMITTED HE WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO UNDERSTAND!

penguin 7 years, 12 months ago

Actually, KU makes more money on undergrads who drop out earlier. The guaranteed tuition is inflated in year one to estimate what it should cost in year four. So those who drop out early will never realize the savings of the compact.

Well at least these plans sound better than the blanket "we are going to make advising better." Maybe they realized that every time that is the plan...nothing happens.

Also requiring more of KS High Schools is good. Only problem is that they are already being asked to do more with $500 less per kid than they had two years ago.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 12 months ago

"s but if some of the other schools like tt, ksu, isu, osu have higher retention rates because they are not even close to being on the academic level that ku is on."

Not sure about the other schools, but I think ISU is generally considered at least on par with and probably somewhat better than KU academically.

Bonkers823 7 years, 12 months ago

Why I didn't graduate and had to drop out:

  • I couldn't afford it, and after my Sophomore year I no longer qualified for financial aid. It was decided by the government that my parents suddenly had enough money to afford to pay my tuition since my sister got married and was no longer an dependent. That was really cute. The financial aid officer actually told me this happens ALL the time. He told me, "Well, you could get married, have a baby, or join the military to longer be considered a dependent. You can also drop out and come back when you're 24." Isn't that great? Those were the options.

-My degree requirements were going to have me there for much longer than 4 years (certain classes were only offered every-other- semester and priority was given to Seniors, some were only offered every other spring or fall semester). Needless to say, after the above conversation this was not a viable option.

I dropped out, moved to the west coast to work in the field I was majoring in. So far I've been very successful. I'd still like my degree, and I really wish I hadn't given KU as much money as I did at the time, considering that I didn't get my degree. Needless to say I think KU could look into cutting their costs. Some of the fees are absolutely RIDICULOUS!!! Especially when some of the classes are taught by TAs who barely speak ENGLISH! One time, I had to Google the lecture because the TA's accent was too strong. In fact before the lecture started he even warned the class how bad his English was...

When I asked what the huge campus fee was for they said, "So you can walk on campus." Really? I walked on campus when I was in high school and used the KU libraries without having to pay the HUGE fee. Besides, I thought that's what part of the tuition went towards.

Scott Perlmutter 7 years, 12 months ago

The answer is not to make it easier to graduate, but to make it harder to get in! If you are in state, KU is an automatic to get into pretty much. If you are out of state, you need a 1090 SAT to get in. As a KU alum, I want it to be 1150 minimum to get into KU for everyone. Make the degree worth more. The people who are not graduating could not get into their majors and the people who just can't cut it because of the easy admission standards.

deec 7 years, 12 months ago

Bonkers, your story sounds familiar. My daughter, who was valedictorian of her class at Wyandotte High School, was unable to attend KU. They offered her very little financial aid because they counted her father's income as well as mine. He contributed not one penny to her education, but his income counted on paper. My son is a current KU student who may not be returning in the fall due to financial aid snafus. They revoked part of his grants/scholarships and required me to apply for a PLUS loan, which I cannot quaiify for due to my own delinquent student KU..

Bonkers823 7 years, 12 months ago

That's just awful...I'm sorry...It's amazing how there is so much importance placed on higher education, but unless you fall into a certain bracket it's almost impossible to afford it!

LadyJ 7 years, 12 months ago

It doesn't help when someone in the Financial Aid Dept. screws up some one's financial information so students don't get the money they're suppose to. Trying to get the mistake fixed is next to impossible, they just stand there with a blank, confused look on their face. By the time they figure it out, the money has been given to someone else. And don't even get me started on professors refusing to accept transferred credits that KU has already accepted and thus forcing you to take the class over. If it is accepted by KU it should be accepted by the professor.

Fatty_McButterpants 7 years, 12 months ago

Oh...well... KU has a good basketball team! And KU Athletics has a gigantic budget!

Like anyone expects a university to focus on education. Why that would be wild and outlandish thinking!

Sean Livingstone 7 years, 12 months ago

People expect everything once they attend college, and once they pay tuitions, they expect to graduate. It's really time to realize that if you want to do well and rank high as an academic institution, the focus should be on graduate education and not undergraduate education. They rank universities by the amount of research papers, funding, and graduate students they produce, and not the number of undergraduates we produce and how well the instructors teach. At some of the top universities, teaching is assigned to TAs. The professors do proposal writing most of the time. That's the truth. If you don't like KU... enjoy your undergraduate education at one of the top universities, and you'll realize how neglected you'll be at those universities, until you become an overworked graduate students.

volunteer 7 years, 12 months ago

Many thoughtful posts here.

That "The Sun Also Rises" crack was awesome, blindrabbit.

Eurekahwk 7 years, 12 months ago

I met a lot of students at KU who were not honor students in HS. Many were in fact marginal. It kind of surprised me. When you get out in the sticks of Kansas, the school holds an aura of being Harvard-like in comparison to the other small Kansas colleges. It is the school that creates doctors and pharmacists. But when you have a lot of out of state kids and local area kids from places like JoCo who treat KU like it is their community college and four year party destination before life starts, you will see marginal scores and high drop out rates. How many of the students went because their parents were pushing them and not because they were actually college material let alone KU material?

Bill Lee 7 years, 12 months ago

I'm a KU dropout. I have 8 hours of "incomplete," and need 7 hours to get my degree. Of course one of my instructors is dead now, another is teaching in Florida, and I have no clue about the third. I'm sure if I talk to KU about these classes, which are no longer offered, they'll say I have to replace them with others which will require new payments that I can't afford. I didn't complete the classes because I was raising a family and working more than 60 hours a week. Finishing my degree is something I want to do, but doing so won't make a difference in my life beyond the satisfaction of completing the task and reaching a goal.

Sean Livingstone 7 years, 12 months ago

It only makes a difference if your degree happens to be a professional one, like Medicine, Pharmaceutical, Business, Engineering, Economics... etc. no guarantee for the other degrees... you get easier life during college of course... in these professions, you need a degree.

elevyn11 7 years, 12 months ago

As a student who failed out my first year, I have a few things to say.

1) kansas high schools aren't preparing incoming freshman for the workload that will be experienced. Many seniors in high school only need 2 more classes to graduate and have partial schedules so they are not prepared for a college level of work the following year.

2) when I came to ku I felt like just a number. Now, this is a problem that isn't easily fixed with over 20,000 undergraduates. But I suggest getting assigned an adviser within the first week and being encouraged to have a strong bond with said advisor. Also, possibly have 2 required meetings per semester until junior year to keep the student on track.

3) some of you stated that students should understand broken english. Some of these professors do not know how to pronounce names, let alone the course material they are teaching. I have also known them to give grades without grading. Is this what we want taxpayers to spend their hard earned dollars on?

4) other good ideas are to have more on campus activities that help make a community setting, encouraging students to stay undecided at least a year for self exploration and get ed completion, making it so no student has orientation the day before classes start, and offering courses required for graduation semesterly to promote timely graduation.

That's my point of view. PS, I am currently back at KU and graduating in 3 semesters, so I will make it under the 6 year mark.

LadyJ 7 years, 12 months ago

Excellent, the only thing I would add to #2 is, if that adviser isn't working for you, get a different one. See them often as elevyn11 says.

Alexander Smith 7 years, 12 months ago

If KU wants to keep more then how about providing a better education. They provide little to no support for their students. If they do provide support good luck on them speaking English, (the math program is horrible). Stop having TAs doing lectures or classes. TAs are not qualified educators nor do they have the training to adapt to individual levels of learning. Force the professors to actually go out and help their students outside the class room. I was at KU for 2 years and it was near impossible to get help rather than a TA who has no clue how to teach. After that I went to University of Iowa and THATS a school that knows how to educate the students. Stop giving sports students so much preference treatment and free rides. Make them show up for classes and take tests like everyone else. Pretty sad when someone transfers to KU med center and a chunk of their credits are rejected because they are sub standard to what the KU Med requires.

KU needs to stop putting sports ahead of the education, its not like KU gets any of the money from the Sports side anyway. All the money the sports side makes they keep.

Bonkers823 7 years, 12 months ago

Well said! I remember one time I asked the TA that was assigned to me for some more work, since I already knew the materials (as my assignments had shown) so I could learn some more about the topic and he said no. He told me that I wasn't allowed anything extra and he wouldn't suggest any further readings. I wasn't even looking for extra credit! I just wanted some more materials, since every class session was going over topics I had written about since junior high, it was NOTHING new. It was awful.

jhawks1234 7 years, 12 months ago

Try this one on for size...

I recently decided to go back and get my degree after taking a few years off. I ended up with excellent grades and made honor roll last semester. I enrolled for summer courses but due to me dropping a couple of classes back in 05 I could not receive my financial aid for the summer. They said I could go through the appeals process and so I did. Writing an essay explaining my situation. I got notified that my appeal was accepted. I was excited thinking that my situation was taken care of. I only come to find out today in an email that my loans were taken away from me. I cannot pay for school out of pocket and now I am afraid I have to drop my summer courses (all of which I have A's in) which then puts me under the completion percentage range. Now if that is the case I will not be able to receive aid for the next year. All because my waiting for my financial aid appeal to go through.

LadyJ 7 years, 12 months ago

Years back my ex was going to KU on financial aid and claiming my kids to get extra money. I had custody and was the one legally allowed to claim them. He never paid a dime in child support. I called the Financial Aid office and told them he was illegally claiming them and cheating them. Basically, they didn't care and he continued to defraud them taking money away from other students that really did need it.

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