Archive for Saturday, August 20, 2011

Each Kansas Regents school has its own strengths

August 20, 2011

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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.

Comments

happyrock 3 years, 9 months ago

Blah, blah, blah.
We cannot afford all of these schools. I would cut their state funding by 10% per year until they were private institutions or were closed.

happyrock 3 years, 9 months ago

I graduated from KU. Sadly it is not the school today that it was 25+ years ago. In the long run the school would benefit by no longer being affiliated with the state.

Lawrence Morgan 3 years, 9 months ago

This is an excellent editorial. There are several points which need to be gone into in greater detail, especially.

First, from my perspective, they all need to be combined into the University of Kansas. This would allow students to move around the state to choose the courses they need to have. At the same time, they would experience other parts of Kansas--something KU students often don't have. It would also give other parts of the state more income and jobs to look forward to, plus in general it would lead to a broadening of experience.

Secondly, each school needs to develop expertise in different areas. When I was in school, I wasn't even aware of other schools very much. If I had been forced to take certain subjects in other parts of the state (say, a semester of biology in Hays), I might have had a very different view of Kansas as a whole, plus I would have made friends in every part of the state. Not everything should be left to KU or KState.

Third, I have never liked this idea of one person favoring one university. If people had a variety of different schools while they were undergraduates, they would probably think differently about the whole state, and tend to favor the whole state, not just one little portion. Other parts of Kansas have great geography, storms, weather, and climate.

Fourth, it would bring about many older people who would want to go back to the university--probably going to different parts of the state for different subjects. This would bring a whole new aspect to the university - different perspectives and outlooks on life, which is badly needed at the present schools.

We might really begin to hear music from western Kansas, with the plains and quiet spaces in the backgrounds, as one example..

Last, we need community colleges in all parts of the state, including Lawrence. Some of these community colleges might offer university courses in specialized languages and traditions (Vietnamese and Laotian in Garden City, where so many Vietnamese and Laotians are concentrated doing meat processing). This would add great flavor to the state, and make it much more desirable to travel in.

These are just examples of what could be an entirely new vision for the State of Kansas, including JOBS, as well as many other things which could make this state so desirable to live in.

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