Archive for Monday, November 8, 2010

KU campaign to improve overall quality under way

November 8, 2010


Recognizing that Kansas University ranks near the bottom in several key categories among its peers in an elite group of research institutions, KU leaders are looking for new ideas to raise the university’s overall quality.

KU Provost Jeff Vitter pointed out areas where KU compares poorly among its peer institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities, a 63-member group that KU has belonged to since 1909.

“KU’s a great institution, but we also have to take a realistic look at where we are to reach the next level of excellence,” Vitter said.

Some examples of problem areas:

• KU ranks in the bottom quartile among AAU schools in several key metrics, including federal research expenditures, national academies memberships, doctoral degrees granted and number of research citations.

• KU ranks 57th among all 61 United States members of the AAU in its U.S. News and World Report overall ranking, and 31st among the 35 AAU public schools.

• Fewer than one-third of KU students graduate in four years, and KU’s six-year graduation rate is 60 percent.

Vitter expressed concern that many non-AAU schools are outperforming KU in these key areas — because, as he pointed out, new schools are joining, and sometimes, schools leave the organization, too.

In order to fix some of the problems, KU officials have begun a strategic planning effort that is in its beginning stages — an official kick-off for the plan is scheduled for today as groups of KU community members will begin looking for ways the university can accomplish its goals of improvement.

“We rely too heavily on some individuals in these areas to be our stars,” Vitter said, adding that he hopes to improve the quality of research across the board at KU.

Likely to be on the docket in the future is some form of tracking the diverse amounts of research done at the institution from chemistry labs to musical compositions, and finding ways to measure it for quality. The groups could also discuss ways to measure research done by professors even after they’ve already acquired tenure.

The process includes attempting to involve as many people as possible, said Mabel Rice, a KU distinguished professor of speech, language and hearing.

“Even if it’s not the way people wanted it to be, they can at least understand how it got that way,” she said.

Though deans and administrators make up the majority of a more than 50-person steering committee for the strategic plan, the committee also has a smaller contingent of tenured and nontenured faculty, students and staff. Another group of KU community members will examine the plan next week.

Chris Haufler, professor and chairman of ecology and evolutionary biology, has been serving as a special assistant to the provost and has been focusing on improving KU’s retention and graduation rates.

He said several measures are in the works, there, too. An office to help KU students with personal finance issues had a recent grand opening on the third floor of the Kansas Union. And KU soon will be looking at scaling back its general education requirements.

About 18 percent of seniors who go to advisers thinking they have enough credits to graduate in their last semesters are told that they’ve missed a general education requirement, Haufler said.

And KU requires 30 to 50 percent more hours devoted to general education requirements courses than its peers, he said.

“High school students are looking at our peers and seeing at KU there’s a substantial difference in the flexibility they can explore at other institutions,” Haufler said.

Vitter said he will work to ensure the strategic planning effort creates a functional plan for the allocation of KU’s resources, and doesn’t become a three-ring binder sitting on a shelf.

“We anticipate this will have a dramatic impact for KU,” he said.


LogicMan 7 years, 6 months ago

"Fewer than one-third of KU students graduate in four years, and KU’s six-year graduation rate is 60 percent."

Which programs have the lowest four year rates, and which the highest six year? And why? This would make for an interesting article, LJW reporters.

ralphralph 7 years, 6 months ago

That was the line that caught my attention. Wow. People in our home are making college and career decisions. One decided on KU a few years back, then thought better of it, based primarily on the quality of classroom instruction (or lack thereof). I suppose that research spending and such are important if the goal is peer-institution respect (and institutional ego), but I tend to think that quality in the classroom will attract top students ... the sort capable of completing a course of study in less than half a decade.

devobrun 7 years, 6 months ago

"KU ranks in the bottom quartile among AAU schools in several key metrics, including federal research expenditures, national academies memberships, doctoral degrees granted and number of research citations."

The metrics sited here are evaluations of how connected KU is to the federal teat. Research is defined by federal money, membership in federally sponsored scientific organizations, and how many times KU research is referenced by people who work for those institutions.

So these measurements are how well tied we are to the Borg.

Alceste 7 years, 6 months ago

Why, LogicMan asks. I'll explain why:

The University of Kansas ENCOURAGES students to take their time in "graduating"....with one of their worthless degrees, I opine....because by keeping these dopes in school, more and more money is generated to pay the fat boy and girl pay checks that that place doles out. It also increases the debt load carried by these oh so very smart "students" such that when they finally do hit the "work force" (as if....and then typically with a worthless piece of paper....), they're balled and chained and owned by Mr. Charlie.

A student has to be enrolled in ONLY 12 credit hours to considered "full time". 12 hours x 2 semesters = 24 hours per "school year". Around or about 119 hours are needed to "graduate". 119/24 =4.95 years to get a degree....purportedly. It's a joke, and anyone who can't see the process as one sick joke needs to take off the rose colored glasses; stop drinking the Kool-Aid and figure it out.

Let's not even get started about that annual KuKluxKlan meeting that goes on what with all them different colored, fancy robes and grand wizardry rah, rah, rah.

Shardwurm 7 years, 6 months ago

Well, it's obvious that the best way to raise quality is to raise tuition.

We all know that spending more on education means the quality will come up. So let's charge $750 a credit hour so KU can be really good.

Bob_Keeshan 7 years, 6 months ago

Good recommendations so far -- KU should be trying to get less, not more, in federal research funding and KU should be cutting tuition.

Keep those awesome ideas coming! Anyone want to propose that KU receives too much in state funding, too? How about placing a cap on private donations, as KU clearly receives too much?

Shardwurm 7 years, 6 months ago

Yes it does actually.

Glad you're seeing the light.

kmoco20 7 years, 6 months ago

Actually, KU receives only 21% of its funding from the state. It has to make up for the rest in private funding.

Bob_Keeshan 7 years, 6 months ago

C'mon, more suggestions then. KU class sizes are too small, they have too many professors. Heck, how about KU has too many students, too?

More nuggets of wisdom please.

Alceste 7 years, 6 months ago

Let the MarketPlace dictate the correct amount of tuition to charge. Right now, it's WORTH about $15.32 per hour. Let the MarketPlace dictate! Bring on the MarketPlace. All us Republicans want to see the MarketPlace dictate.....something is supposed to cost what it is worth. NO SUBSIDIES for KU...or any other school for that matter. Why does Kansas need so many dang "institutions of higher learning" with its dinky, dinky population? Makes on sense.

fu7il3 7 years, 6 months ago

Someone mentioned KU encouraging students to take longer to finish. That is definitely true. In fact, in the education program, students are required to take a year of graduate school before they can graduate, meaning high school teachers are going for at least five years. Graduate students in some programs seem to have advisors that are in no hurry to get them their degrees, so graduate programs can go on for years beyond what would be expected.

My biggest problem with KU is their apparent disinterest in non-traditional students or students with full-time jobs trying to get an education. They basically demand that KU be your entire life. If you have kids or a job, you are better off going elsewhere.

Alceste 7 years, 6 months ago

not_holroyd notes: "Maybe he wants to check out comparable "dinky" states and the number of institutions there? Naaawww. That would be factual."

Answer: Who cares what those other dinky states are doing? They as broke as Kansas? They gonna "level the playing field" for all of us? Those other states, in ANY way assisting Kansas? Nope. Why shold they even enter into the equation?

It would be and is just fine with Alceste to CLOSE DOWN K.U. Let K-State be the flagship. Make Lawrence a lot better place to get rid of Snob Hill and all that goes with it. Don't need 'em in this town no more.....

verity 7 years, 6 months ago

"Don't need 'em in this town no more....."

Yeah, really. And just what do you think Lawrence would be like without KU?

I'm sure the economy would boom when all the people employed by KU move out of town and there are hundreds of house on the market. Oh, yes, and the money that is spent here by KU employees. No one would miss that a bit---just more stuff for non-KU people to buy. Why I see a major utopia in Lawrence.

Alceste 7 years, 6 months ago

Me too: A sleepy little (Ex) college town like it once was.....who cares about the hundreds of houses on the market? There already are hundreds of houses on the market and there'll be a whole lot more before this "economic blip" is over. There a ton of McMansion's that are for sale out in West Lawrence; There remain vacant, never sold "Hobbs-Taylor Lofts" (THE answer to "fixing" downtown??); The vast majority of people who live in Lawrence don't work in Lawrence: Lawrence hasn't been able to provide jobs for "the people" for well over 35+ years). Kansas and Lawrence have been very fortunate in side stepping this "economic blip". We, collectively, haven't a clue what's going on in the rest of the country.

Now back to the issue.....a credit unit from the Great University of Kansas is WORTH about $15.32 per hour. Charge it!

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 6 months ago

These measures are welcome and are 20 years overdue.

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