Fairly soon, officials of Kansas Regents schools — Kansas, Kansas State, Wichita, Pittsburg, Emporia and Fort Hays — will be announcing fall semester enrollment numbers.
Considering today’s economic environment, it’s likely some schools will report enrollment gains with other schools showing declines. Alumni of these institutions, state lawmakers and the Regents all scrutinize these numbers. Also, those who have the means to be generous in their fiscal support of a particular school usually look at enrollment numbers as a yardstick as to how well the school is doing.
Likewise, high school students trying to decide which Regents institution they want to attend are likely to check enrollment numbers to determine if they would be more comfortable attending one school versus another.
Kansas University officials are aware and sensitive to enrollment numbers, but these same officials are hopeful growing numbers of parents, students and high school guidance counselors will pay more attention to the uniqueness of each of the schools.
KU officials, and perhaps their counterparts at the other Regents schools, believe too many parents and students assume all Regents schools as being pretty much the same.
The fact is, each school has unique features and areas of excellence or emphasis. If a student is to make the most of a “university experience,” he or she should try to fit the student’s academic excellence, areas of interest and financial means to the offerings of the various schools.
Granted, scholarship opportunities help level out some of the financial challenges, but, even so, college is an expensive endeavor and some schools offer sound and challenging educational programs but at less cost than other schools.
There is the normal and expected competition between Kansas and Kansas State universities, and there are many similarities between the two institutions. But at the same time, they are two distinct and different schools. Kansas State is a state-aided land grant school and KU is a state-aided comprehensive research university. Both are good schools, and leaders and alumni of the schools want to see their university grow in academic and research excellence. These schools, along with Wichita State, are in a different category than Pittsburg, Emporia and Fort Hays, but that doesn’t mean these three schools are not good or that they don’t provide a challenging and rewarding academic experience.
Kansas University is the “flagship” institution in Kansas. In fact, it could be the “flagship” academic institution for the broad geographic area surrounding the state. In former years this was indeed the case, but in recent years other schools have either raised their standards of excellence or KU has stayed the same, or even slipped, in comparison with other area peer institutions. KU needs to regain its former position as a flagship for this part of the country.
KU supporters should do what they can to help their university, but at the same time they should be supportive and do what they can to help make Kansas State the best land grant school in the nation.
Why not have each of the Regents schools looked upon as the best in the country in their respective classes?
Such a situation would be good for the state and good for the students.
The idea that one Regents school is just the same as all other Regents schools is not accurate, and students and parents should take more care in recognizing the advantage of the uniqueness and strengths of the various schools.
Also, officials must find a way to adjust tuition costs to reflect the costs associated with each institution without suggesting one is more elite, better or trying to price students out of a college or post-secondary education.
Regents, university administrators, state legislators and state taxpayers need to take a serious look into the question of how to keep high school graduates who want a post-high-school education here in Kansas rather than to lose them to schools in other states.
Kansas’ goal should be to offer an excellent array of post K-12 schools, whether the Regents schools, community colleges or technical schools — schools that meet the needs and dreams of a wide spectrum of Kansas high school graduates.