Your daily dose of news, notes and links from around Kansas University.
• One of the greatest tools any KU reporter could ever wish for is the website of KU’s Office of Institutional Research and Planning, so I figured I’d give it some love in this space.
OIRP director Deb Teeter and her folks do a good job of making available a wide variety of interesting information about KU, and are the source for facts and figures of all sorts. So here’s a Heard on the Hill post dedicated to the vast and varied information available through this great website.
• The OIRP site played a key role in the differential tuition dust-up last year, because the MBA students were able to use the site to find key documents needed to bolster their arguments.
They’d made a massive open-records request to KU, and were surprised to find that KU wanted more than $61,000 before filling the students’ wide-ranging request for information from the School of Business.
Not having $61,000 to give to KU, the students went to OIRP (among other places, too) to find key documents like the original proposal for spending KU’s differential tuition dollars. This document became the basis for many of the students’ complaints as they moved forward. Though an audit report cleared the business school of any major malfeasance, it did reveal some accounting issues at the school that needed to be shored up.
• Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little talks a lot about KU’s retention and graduation rates, but they don’t always get mentioned specifically. For that, we turn to OIRP, which shows data from the last 10 years.
KU’s freshman retention rates are, as of the most recent count, at about 77.7 percent after the first year, and have been in slight decline since about 2003. Since 1990, the rate has hovered between 75 and 82 percent.
As of the most recent figures available, KU graduates 32.3 percent of its students after four years and 60.6 percent after six years.
These rates are often tracked in national rankings and can affect a university’s reputation among its peers.
Though this data I found is a little old (and it’s from the University of Florida, so they’re bolded), it’s easy to see that the retention and graduation rates are obviously a concern among fellow public Association of American Universities members, as KU consistently ranks near the bottom of its peers.
Provost Jeff Vitter has made mention of KU’s low rankings in several areas among its peers among the top-flight AAU research universities. It’s important to improve these rates, he has said, because KU doesn’t want to get asked to leave the elite group.
KU is looking for ways to improve these rates as part of its ongoing strategic planning process. I’ll be tracking their efforts over the long term to see how they do.
• Gray-Little and Provost Jeff Vitter have also been discussing faculty salaries, saying that if KU is prevented from raising faculty salaries, it risks losing top-flight researchers to other fields. According to an OIRP report, KU is right in the middle of its Big 12 Conference peers when it comes to salaries.
This report doesn’t have figures for this 2011 fiscal year that will end June 30, but it does show KU declining after the 2010 fiscal year, which was the first year to feature a salary freeze for faculty and staff. That freeze continued into this fiscal year, and KU leaders have expressed a desire to end it next year.
• Any other diamonds hidden in the OIRP rough? Fill me on that or any other tip for Heard on the Hill by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.