KU considering how to balance need to grow enrollment, tougher admission standards

After last week’s directive from the Kansas Board of Regents to raise admissions standards, Kansas University officials are trying to balance that effort with another goal of increasing its enrollment.

“We are looking for a way of doing this that encourages students to be more prepared so they can be more successful,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

She said that effort would involve looking at students’ level of performance in high school or on one of the standardized tests.

State government officials have expressed concern about KU’s continued membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities, and its existing enrollment policy forces KU to accept students who might struggle there.

“We are probably one of the few AAU schools with students who have ACT scores between 12 and 36,” said Matt Melvin, KU’s associate vice provost for recruitment and enrollment. “I’m not sure that benefits the state, if it benefits the institution and most importantly, if it benefits the student.”

That’s especially true as more students rack up large amounts of debt to attend classes, he said.

Melvin often talks about the need to balance quality, quantity and diversity of the incoming class.

As KU is facing multiple years of declining enrollment, Melvin said he’s aware an increase in the quality of those admitted could mean a decrease in the quantity. He said he hoped an increased retention rate would offset a potential slide in enrollment in the first year with fewer people leaving KU in later years. KU will also begin more aggressively recruiting transfer students as well as determining ways of increasing enrollment, including by looking at international students, its mix of graduate students and distance delivery of education, Melvin said.

KU will work on the minimum thresholds it wants to set, Melvin said, as they have been doing in the past. Those aren’t set yet, but will be an increased priority moving forward.

“Clearly from the directive last week, it’s, ‘We expect to have something in front of us in the spring,'” Melvin said. “That changes the pace a little bit.”