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.


LadyJ 3 years, 9 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.


oneeye_wilbur 3 years, 9 months ago

An F does the job better than ever as well as the military draft. Bring back the draft.


jhawks1234 3 years, 9 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.


Alexander Smith 3 years, 9 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.


elevyn11 3 years, 9 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.


Bill Lee 3 years, 9 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.


Eurekahwk 3 years, 9 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?


volunteer 3 years, 9 months ago

Many thoughtful posts here.

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


Fatty_McButterpants 3 years, 9 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!


LadyJ 3 years, 9 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.


clorox 3 years, 9 months ago

KU is a joke in every way. You are no Texas.


deec 3 years, 9 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..


mutt627 3 years, 9 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.


Bonkers823 3 years, 9 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.


azalum 3 years, 9 months ago

i never understood why we care so much about retention rates (besides cash). so what this tells me is that ku is a tough school with fairly easy entry requirements. i'm not sure how the breakdown (who has lower retention) is 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.


penguin 3 years, 9 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.


BigPrune 3 years, 9 months ago

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


KU_cynic 3 years, 9 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.


LJ Whirled 3 years, 9 months ago

Cause? How 'bout: Cost up, Quality down. There's your trouble.


blindrabbit 3 years, 9 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.


deec 3 years, 9 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,.


edjayhawk 3 years, 9 months ago

Got some research to back that claim up?


SettingTheRecordStraight 3 years, 9 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.


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