Archive for Monday, March 7, 2011

KU implements automatic enrollment policy for math requirements

March 7, 2011


Brian Orloff and his son, who entered Kansas University this semester, hoped to put off those pesky math requirements for a semester, but a new KU policy won’t allow that anymore.

Orloff’s son, who enrolled at KU this spring, had previously taken classes at Johnson County Community College. But he hadn’t completed any math classes.

They then found that KU is pretty serious about getting students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to enroll in basic math courses early and continuously.

So serious that, as of last semester, if those students haven’t demonstrated the ability to fulfill basic math requirements upon entering KU and don’t sign up to take those classes in their first semester, the university will automatically enroll them in a math class until they complete an algebra or pre-calculus class.

Not fulfilling the math requirement is one of the top barriers to graduation, said Kim McNeley, a KU assistant liberal arts and sciences dean. And the longer students delay taking it out of high school, the more difficult it becomes, she said.

The school sends students who need to take the classes three notices: one through the mail, and two through e-mails directing to the students’ online KYou Portal. Advisers also discuss the issue with them, McNeley said.

KU also tracks whether the students have read the notices in the portal.

If students aren’t enrolled in math classes by the last day before classes begin, KU will automatically add a math class to the students’ schedule.

For KU, it became a question of how much responsibility students should have to do the things that set themselves up for graduation weighed against the responsibility the university has to set students up for success, she said.

If they choose, students may opt to take the classes at other schools or community colleges, McNeley said, as long as they enroll in their first semester.

“These are pretty basic math courses, and community colleges do a great job with that,” she said.

KU has a petition process by which some students can postpone the enrollment in situations if they have conflicting enrollments with other classes, excessive responsibilities outside of school along with some other situations.

“What we typically don’t approve is ‘I just don’t want to do it now,’” McNeley said.

By the time students are allowed to drop the class, they have to take a “W” on their transcripts and have to pay the tuition for the course.

That frustrated Orloff, who lives in Orlando, Fla. He compared the policy to something like ordering a soup and a salad at a restaurant and getting a soup and pasta instead, and being forced to pay for it.

McNeley said when they first started enforcing the policy, they noticed students were enrolling in the classes and then immediately dropping them. The school provided a way out of the class later in the semester to avoid forcing a student into a failing grade.

Orloff said while he understood why the university wanted to increase its graduation rates, he still felt like students should be able to decide when they want to fulfill certain graduation requirements.

“It shouldn’t be up to the university to put a policy in place to force me as a parent to spend money on a class that my child doesn’t want to take anyway,” he said.


Jan Brocker 7 years, 3 months ago

Just a thought: People write bad checks partially because they don't know how to balance their check book. Algebra might just be the ticket. Kids go to casinos and spend their collage fund or student loan that is supposed to be for school because they don't understand that the casino always wins. Calculus might prevent some of this. Wishful thinking?

Jan Brocker 7 years, 3 months ago

Sorry, it should be "college" instead of "collage." I guess I should have taken Engish 101 and not algebra or calculus.

kusp8 7 years, 3 months ago

What a joke! It's college. Let kids sink or float on their own. If they want help they can talk to an advisor. Ultimately I blame sunspots.

RogueThrill 7 years, 3 months ago

I wonder what it's like to dread taking an entry level math course.

A bunch of things failed this poor kid (and all like him) well before he made it to college.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

Musta been the teachers' fault. Can they be retroactively fired?

Or better yet, can they be retroactively un-conceived?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

Wow, they even have meth requirements at college now. I thought those were only at the trailer parks.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

I don't know, something about this just doesn't add up.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

“What we typically don’t approve is ‘I just don’t want to do it now,’” McNeley said.

Never do today what you can put off till next semester.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

Math classes were easy-- you only have to show up for tests. So just make sure it's an afternoon class.

It's those classes where you have to show up for the lectures that are the problem.

tolawdjk 7 years, 3 months ago

I knew several liberal arts students that could not pass double oh duh. Personally, I think it is a great idea.

Shardwurm 7 years, 3 months ago

Easy to say when you're spending someone else's money.

coderob 7 years, 3 months ago

I'm personally amazed that they were able to pass such a strong policy. Way to beat the government committee stereotype, KU!

pace 7 years, 3 months ago

I am one of those people who forced KU to take this stand. Me bad.

Curtis Lange 7 years, 3 months ago

Next up: All incoming freshmen will be handed their KU-selected schedules at their orientation. "Picking a schedule is haaard. Let us do it for you. Oh, and if you don't like it...too bad you owe us the tuition anyways."

Michael Rowland 7 years, 3 months ago

Ok, seriously, algebra and precalc are easy as long as you give up the attitude of "It's math, therefore it's hard and I won't be able to do it and hence I'm not going to even try." Algebra I is taught as early as 7th grade, and most high school students should be in precalc by their junior year. Algebra really isn't anything more than an application of arithmetic.

Alegbra and precalc are pretty much what's expected on SAT/ACTs as well. So you should have already proven that you can do this math. Just get the course over with so you can do what you really want. And if you really aren't able to perform at this level of math, then perhaps college isn't where you belong.

So all the sob stories about big, mean KU forcing you to take math: get over it.

George_Braziller 7 years, 3 months ago

Math isn't easy for everyone. I struggled with it from grade school all the way through high school. Algebra completely mystified me. No matter how much I studied it never made any sense to me. It still doesn't.

I took a bonehead algebra class in college and had to drop it because I was going to flunk. I graduated from KU in 1985 with a 3.0 GPA but without a math credit. Someone made a mistake and didn't catch that it was missing. I sure wasn't going to point it out because I'd still be trying to pass.

Shardwurm 7 years, 3 months ago

It's not about taking math. If you read the article the problem is being forced to take a course and paying for it when that isn't what your plan is.

There is nothing in the article that says that math shouldn't be required for graduation. The point is let the student take it on his/her schedule and stop dictating (and charging) for it.

Michael Rowland 7 years, 3 months ago

It took until my junior year before I could finally take the classes I wanted to take. Before that it was completely what the school said I had to take in order to complete general requirements. But then, UNC is far better academically than KU, I guess.

nobody1793 7 years, 3 months ago

Don't they still require freshman to take English 101 first semester? How is this any different?

ahyland 7 years, 3 months ago

Hi, nobody.

While CLAS policy does, in fact, require students to take basic English classes in their first semester, they don't automatically enroll students in it like they have started doing with these math classes. I asked Kim McNeley about that specifically.

She said the reason they don't is because they've found that most students take the English classes right away. Math anxiety apparently is much, much greater than English anxiety.

Andy Hyland KU reporter

akuna 7 years, 3 months ago

Thank you for the clear, well-written comment. It's always nice to see the LJWorld staff participating in the comments. May I make a suggestion? Could you run up the flag pole the idea of calling attention to staff comments via a different design or color change? That would help users skim through the comments more effectively. Thanks.

ahyland 7 years, 3 months ago

And thanks to you, akuna, for the kind words. Personally, I'm not sure if my two cents merit an entirely different color than everyone else, but I'll bring up the idea if I get the chance.

9070811 7 years, 3 months ago

I was exempt from MATH 101 and instead had to take PHIL 148 (Logic & Reason). That, my friends, is the pleasure that comes from being in a professional school and not CLAS. This was only after my high school transcript was examined and after it was shown that my necessary schedule/course load would not accommodate math courses. I'm going to have to say that I feel pretty lucky.

In my opinion, it would be much more useful and beneficial to require students to take a money management course. Which would focus on credit cards, understanding various loans, monthly budgets and other significant monetary concerns. It would certainly cross economics and math, both of which are important to understand and study.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 7 years, 3 months ago

There is a very good reason why KU is doing this. (BTW, many other universities have had a mandatory math policy like this in force for many years. This isn't out of the ordinary.) It is about the way that students put off taking unpleasant or difficult courses like this until the last minute. Then they apply for grad schools or they accept job offers but FLUNK math in what was supposed to be their "final" semester at KU. Then they ask the university (as crazy as it sounds) to waive the math requirement for graduation. I once knew of a guy - a music major - in his sixth year at KU who was still around ONLY because he couldn't pass algebra.

If you're bad at math, the worst thing you can do is not take a math class for 3 years and then try to pass a college math class, but that is what many students do. Some do the same with Western Civ because they don't like to do a lot of reading, etc.

KU has an agenda to graduate students "on time". This policy is in place only for that purpose. It helps students who might otherwise mismanage an important part of their college career.

Put plainly, this is a good policy that puts no burden on anyone and helps ensure success for the students.

oakfarm 7 years, 3 months ago

I am old school but back in 1969, my college did hand me my schedule of classes, and they were serious about my following a logical pedagogical sequence of courses to graduate. This parent is the epitome of the helicopter parent and the student is the ultimate whiner: 'I want to come to Kansas but I want to take what I want when I want to take it.' The university is not a shopping mall or a supermarket. There is a reason they call it a curriculum and not a punch card of courses.

When I was a program director, a student would want to drop a course, claiming that since she paid for it, she ought to be able to drop it if they so chose, at any time, without penalty. Problem is that she was NOT paying for the course, the taxpayers were footing most of the bill. And some other student had been closed out of the course so this goof off could 'try it out'.

It would be interesting to have KU report on how many enrollments each semester end up in less than a C- grade, or with a drop, incomplete or X. I'd bet that the percentage is well over 10% and as high as 25%. That's wasting time and taxpayer money.

Shardwurm 7 years, 3 months ago

"'I want to come to Kansas but I want to take what I want when I want to take it.' The university is not a shopping mall or a supermarket. There is a reason they call it a curriculum and not a punch card of courses."

Wrong. The that is exactly what the University is. It's a business. If they were giving the classes away for free that would be one thing. But they aren't. People are taking mortgage-level debt out of college and therefore should have control over when and how they take their classes.

That's how it was when I went to school. KU shouldn't care when the student takes the course. Here's the list of requirements. When you get done we'll give you a degree. End of story.

Dictating schedules and mandating payment with no recourse for refund is wrong.

Your quote about taxpayers footing most of the bill is amusing. I'll bet if the taxpayers really knew what was going on at the schools and had any real say in it there would be many changes that people like you wouldn't like.

The policy is a bad one and I support it's change.

As an aside you're adopting a typical bureaucratic position when you assail the parent. Obviously he's got a problem because he disagrees with a policy. And nothing in the article says anything about what steps his son has taken on his own.

Michael Rowland 7 years, 3 months ago

Wrong, a university isn't just a business where you can do what you want when. When you enroll and declare a major that department tells you what you need to take, and most classes have prerequisite classes, so there is a specific order. Plus the department and university has had many students go through the curriculum, so they have a unique perspective that lets them know what path lets students get through the program successfully. The individual student, however, does not have that experience. Those people that help you figure out what classes to take are called advisors for a reason, they know the best path to take and are advising you to take it. Doing otherwise is a recipe for disaster, and having a lot of people not graduating on time and failing courses looks bad for the university, which in turn is bad for business.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 3 months ago

Yep, you are correct Gadhelyn. A university degree is not a free-for-all, take whatever you want situation. It is a carefully constructed, logical progression of classes that build on one another.

Mark Pickerel 7 years, 3 months ago

If a person wants to take anything they want when they want, then they can enroll as non-degree-seeking. If they are seeking a degree, they have a responsibility to the University and themselves to progress and graduate within a reasonable timeframe. Students that don't do this are a drag on the system and a waste of time and resources best spent on other students.

If the University deems that Math is required for degree-seeking freshmen, then so be it.

Brian Laird 7 years, 3 months ago

To some degree, the business analogy is a good one; however, the main issue is that the students are both the consumers AND the product of that business. The value of the commodity that the consumers (the students) are buying is dependent upon the quality of the product (the students). A business cannot produce a quality product with having some control over both the raw material (incoming student qualifications) and the processing (curriculum and standards). Therefore, the university has a careful line to walk to make sure that the consumer's (i.e. student's) needs are met, but also to make sure that the quality of the output (i.e. the graduating student) remains as high as possible.

ksarmychick 7 years, 3 months ago

Taking an entry level math class and actually passing it woundn't have been so hard at KU if my math 115 teacher freshmen year actually had spoken english. I not only had to attend my math class to turn in my homework and get the assignment, I also had to attend my roommates math class also-just so I could understand the course material. When I complained to the math department head that I couldn't understand the teacher she told me well that's life, and in the real world you are going to meet people that don't speak your language and are going to have to try and figure out what they are saying. I ended up taking and paying(out of state tution) for calc I 3 times while at KU-because it took me that long to find a teacher that actually spoke english. The problem with the math classes is not learning the material but being able to understand the teacher. And they get you by having a englsih speaking teacher show up for the first few classes and then switching to a nonenglish speaking teacher after the drop and not have to pay deadline. Unless a student is taking a fourign language class at KU they should require the teachers to actually speak understandable english.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

I had a calc teacher a couple of decades or so ago who was from Pakistan. He certainly had a Punjabi accent, but he was also a native, or near-native, speaker of English. His accent took a little getting used to, but it was fully understandable, and yet many students in the class tried to use that as the excuse for why they weren't doing well.

While your story may be true for some teachers, for many students, it's just a convenient excuse.

ksarmychick 7 years, 3 months ago

It is not an excuse. If I am paying $3000 for 1 math class the university should be required to provide me with a teacher that I am fully able to understand and comprehend. Most students have a hard enough time learning math without having to try and understand what the teacher is saying. The 1st calc I teacher I had arrived in America from India 2 weeks after the class started and had a very hard time speaking the language. He would get confused and start speaking in his native language which lets face it, I don't speak. It was impossible to understand what he was saying and he would only get through 1/4 of the class material that was supossed to be covered because of the language barrier. He was unable to understand the students to even answer a simple question. Their were several time when he would have to leave class to go get another teacher to help teach the class because he wasn't capable of doing the job. The 3rd time I took the class I took it in a big lecture hall of over 300 students and was able to pass the class with an A because the teacher spoke english!

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 3 months ago

Yes, it is too bad that more American students are not interested in academia or qualified enough to do it.

The fact is, universities have so many non-native English speaking teaching assistants because Americans are unable or unwilling to do the job.

I guess we could lower the standards and let unqualified Americans be GTAs. I am sure you would have no trouble at all understanding the misinformed and underdeveloped material that they would teach.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

It's very unusual for someone from India (or Pakistan) working at a university to not be able to speak English-- as a matter of fact, they very likely are native or near-native English speakers, albeit an Indian variety of English.

Michael Rowland 7 years, 3 months ago

They actually do require the GTAs to speak understandable English. They require international graduate students to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). This tests competency with written and spoken English. If you don't score high enough in one or both (depending on the department) then you can't be a GTA. I know someone who can be very difficult to understand, took the TOEFL and didn't score high enough to teach, so she's self-funded and not placed in a classroom. So, perhaps with the exception of the professor (I don't know the faculty language requirements), your GTAs can speak understandable English. If your couldn't understand the professor then it's YOUR responsibility to seek out help from others whom you might understand (the GTAs, for example).

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

I don't know if it's still the case, but it used to be that the Applied English Center, where foreign KU students gain English competency before being allowed to take regular course work, also taught classes for would-be teachers who are non-native speakers of English.

I believe they also gave instruction on how to organize a class and gave practice on presentation techniques and audio-visual tools.

Viper1962 7 years, 3 months ago

A guy has an issue with a policy and expresses his concern. Then he and his son are ridiculed.

There is much that this story doesn't share I'm sure, but this is the reason people rarely stand up for what they believe is right any more. It's just easier to let the system steam-roll you isn't it?

This person is paying a premium fee for an education and yet the University cares nothing about what he thinks. There is no accountability by the University to their customers. Unilateral decisions are made, tuition is raised, tax support increased, and the people paying the bill have almost no say.

Every student develops at a different pace. This young man is in a better position to say when he's ready than any of us in this forum, or the University for that matter. I put off my math as long as possible in college and I ended up passing it because I knew I had to in order to graduate. That was my choice, and the University should not concern itself with when a class was long as it is passed and - more importantly for KU in this case - paid for.

At least he had the courage to voice his opinion publicly - something most of you posting here wouldn't dare do.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 3 months ago

I remember taking 'dummie math' my first semester at KU. Algebra II and Trig combined it was. The guy spoke English but was confusing. Got my "D" and moved F would have doomed me to that little land war in Asia. Next math class was statistics in graduate school. Hey, "I was an English major; you do the math." This is an amusing discussion in a way. I can't see anything wrong with forcing someone to take the math class their freshman year. Don't wanna do it? Don't go to KU.

Brian Laird 7 years, 3 months ago

This whole "math is hard thing" is one thing that really amazes me about American society (probably other societies as well, but this is the one I live in). In order to function and make informed decisions in life and as a citizen one needs to be both literate and numerate. Nobody would go about bragging that they couldn't read, but many people seem to be proud of the fact that they "can't do math". For some reason, incompetence in basic math, instead of being shunned in society (like illiteracy), is perversely celebrated.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 3 months ago

true dat, boltzmann. I have also been mystified by this seeming pride in being bad at math. When someone humorously notes that they are bad at math, my first reaction is always "what an idiot".

I'm not saying that everyone needs to be able to do calculus or solve binomials, but there should be a basic understanding of probability and proportionality that is lacking even among many science majors at KU (mostly biology).

mcmandy 7 years, 3 months ago

"And the longer students delay taking it (math) out of high school, the more difficult it becomes, she said."

I completely disagree. I flunked out of intermediate algebra in high school in 2003. I aced it at JCCC and I'm doing well in College Algebra. Not getting an A yet, but almost! Putting some distance between myself and all the frustration I used to feel during math classes absolutely helped me be more receptive to understanding it better.

I see the point in making sure students get their math classes out of the way, but taking a break certainly can't hurt everyone when it clearly helped me.

Irenaku 7 years, 3 months ago

Agreed. I was horrible at math in highschool and now am taking it at JCCC and doing very well, though more slowly than KU might like for me to do. So what. I am a non-trad and this works for me.

stealcloud 7 years, 3 months ago

Just raise the admissions requirements so students aren't taking Math 001 and Math 002, math for the unwilling, in a four year college.

roverk190 7 years, 3 months ago

Who cares. Just cheat your way through math like I did. I made it through Calc 2 never doing a thing. I even had the tests covered. Degree in hand, I can only laugh now :)

childhoodsurvivor 7 years, 3 months ago

I'd like to know what anyone thinks about someone who has a math disability. A math disability so bad that tutors, calculators and extra time on tests don't help, but otherwise has a 3.5 GPA in all other classes.

compmd 7 years, 3 months ago

im going to say what some here have intimated but couldnt come right out and say:

If you are afraid of Math 002, you dont deserve a university degree.

Seriously, if something like "2x / 3 = 7" makes your knees shake, youre lacking some major life skills.

Rover, let me guess, you got a business degree. I wouldnt laugh so hard, admitting to fraudulently obtaining a degree can get you in a wee bit of trouble. As someone who worked hard through Calc 2, and almost every subsequent math class through Numerical Analysis, I smile at the thought of you getting called out for your fraud.

manfred 7 years, 3 months ago

This is just another case of KU succumbing to the progressives. You see, progressives love to force students to take math -- this is because solutions to mathematical problems are found with reasoning and deduction, which isn't how problems should be solved! Math is leading our children astray!

A problem should be solved by feeling the answer in your gut. Listening to Glenn Beck can help, since he's so good at feeling what's right and what's wrong. Since you can't do math this way, these courses only serve to further confuse our students.

KU should change its name to "Progressive University," because the nutjob progressives are running it now. That's why I'm sending my kids to Liberty University. I know plenty of people who've graduated from there, and none of them can do one iota of math!

Betty Bartholomew 7 years, 3 months ago

"'It shouldn’t be up to the university to put a policy in place to force me as a parent to spend money on a class that my child doesn’t want to take anyway,' he said."

It's called ripping off the Band-Aid, man. He's going to have to do it at some point anyhow, and you'll be paying for it when he does whether he flunks it now or later, so may as well get it done and over with.

To McMandy up a few: I don't disagree with your point. Actually, I tend to think students attending college right out of high school is a bad idea altogether for many of them. I think many freshmen fresh out of high school are attending out of the pressure to go to college rather than the desire to do so, and they aren't really given the opportunity to recover from the burn-out they've developed going to school for the past 13 or so years. I also tend to think a lot of the students who flounder in college do so because they really don't know what they want to do with their lives and therefore don't know what to do with themselves in college.

I will hold up my husband as an example of this. He started at Washburn in 1994 right after high school and did extremely poorly in the classes he took (Ds and Fs for the most part). He didn't know what he was doing or what he wanted to do, didn't understand college, and didn't like being there, but he succumbed to parental pressure to go. Now, nearly two decades later, he's going to KU with a focus on his goals (obtaining an information systems degree, possibly with a minor in supply chain management) and doing very well in his classes, pulling mostly As and Bs, with only one C so far. In 1994, it wasn't that he was stupid or learning disabled, he was just unfocused, unready, and, going by the stories he's told me, simply too immature.

I think waiting even a single semester between high school and college would be exceedingly beneficial to many if not all students, just so they have the breathing space and "me" time to prepare themselves for the next four (or more) years.

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