As Kansas University continues its capital campaign, one major focus will be raising money to create more four-year renewable scholarships for freshmen.
And officials are touting the move as a recruiting tool.
The initiative was unveiled publicly during Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little’s state of the university speech last week, and efforts are already under way at KU to make it so more students are offered these kinds of scholarships by next fall.
That’s important, she said last week, because students contemplating enrollment at KU sometimes see KU as offering fewer scholarship dollars than its competitors. In reality, she said, the university often offers more money than other schools, but it’s backloaded in scholarships targeted at juniors and seniors. That, the chancellor said, isn’t as helpful in recruitment.
To make the changes, university leaders had to build consensus among KU’s deans, who control much of the scholarship funds for their individual schools. Gray-Little said that effort has been ongoing and continues today.
The goal, said Danny Anderson, dean of KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is to identify existing funds and raise new money through the capital campaign to make scholarships for juniors and seniors available to freshmen and sophomores for four years.
As Anderson connects with donors, he said he’s found support for the idea. Many of KU’s most successful alumni received scholarships, he said.
“They know what a transformational difference that can make,” Anderson said.
The change will be largely felt in the college, where Anderson said virtually every department has a financial award of some kind it gives to juniors and seniors.
“Every department in the college wants to have the best students,” Anderson said, and if they can strategically use their money in a way to attract those students as freshmen, all the better, he said.
The change could mean more students get admitted to KU’s professional schools — such as journalism and education — as freshmen, said Rick Ginsberg, dean of the School of Education.
Currently, those who want to be teachers are admitted to the education school as juniors, and those enrolling in the school’s health, sport and exercise sciences program are admitted as sophomores.
The school will be rolling out a pilot program this fall, Ginsberg said, to admit four students who want to become teachers and four HSES students as freshmen.
The course work for the programs wouldn’t change, but early admission would give students access to the school’s scholarship funds as they enter KU.
“If it means attracting the best and brightest students that Kansas has to offer, we think it could be a darned good idea,” Ginsberg said.
That’s long been the model in KU’s School of Engineering, where students now are admitted as freshmen, said Dean Stuart Bell.
“It’s really competitive to get the best students,” he said, adding he had just finished signing a stack of offer letters to send to freshmen outlining the compensation packages they’ll be receiving over four years at KU.
While some freshmen earning scholarships could leave before they finish their degrees at KU, Bell said the money wouldn’t be wasted.
“It still gives you a great pool of students who are going to graduate from KU,” he said.