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Archive for Saturday, August 25, 2012

KU visit should be highlight for prospective students

August 25, 2012

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For one reason or another, there seems to be increased attention among those involved with higher education on how to minimize dropouts or “churn” within their student bodies, how to recruit students, the ever-escalating cost of attending a top-grade traditional college or university, the role of for-profit schools and the role of community colleges and technical schools.

Recent headlines report: “Regents size up for-profit rivals,” “The intentional gap … taking a break between high school and college works out well for some students and results in their being more focused and set for higher education,” “New studies weigh college value, cost” and many others with similar messages.

Members of the Kansas Board of Regents apparently spent considerable time at their recent retreat “expressing concern over the ever-increasing number of students attending for-profit colleges.” Another way of putting this concern might be, “Why are students going to for-profit schools rather than to one of our schools?”

News reports indicated there were varying opinions among the regents relative to the reasons (or excuses) for why this might be the case in Kansas. Fortunately, Regent Ed McKechnie said, “They (high school graduates) are potential customers and taxpayers. If they don’t fit us, that’s not their problem, that’s our problem.”

The last paragraph on this story said, “Several higher education officials said they would study the issue more and possibly contact some of the students who chose a for-profit school over a regents university or community college to see why they made that decision.”

It doesn’t sound like the “several higher education officials” were really too concerned or alarmed over the situation.

This casual attitude causes this writer to report the observations of two Kansas University graduates who brought their daughters to Lawrence within the past several months to visit KU and consider it as their choice for a college education. These families live in other states but both have maintained close ties with KU and are extremely proud of their university. They were enthused about bringing their daughters to visit KU and wanted KU to shine.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be a bad, embarrassing experience. These were two separate visits by two high school juniors and their mothers. These comments came from the mothers:

“First of all, the faculty assistant didn’t use correct grammar when welcoming the students and parents.”

“The student ambassador’s dress was terrible. The tight and short short-shorts were almost underwear. The top was almost the same and there was nothing KU or Jayhawk displayed on her outfit.”

“In addition to the manner in which she was dressed, she seemed uninformed and was not able to answer questions.”

One mother who hadn’t been back to campus for several years wanted to know more about certain buildings, new and old, “and the young lady had nothing to offer. In fact, she said she didn’t know. She couldn’t answer basic questions.”

“The boy who led our tour didn’t take us into any building.”

“The attitude at KU seems to be, or appears, ‘If you don’t already bleed KU and are counting on attending KU, then we don’t intend to try to woo you. There’s almost an arrogance about the university that they don’t really need or want you.”

One mother said there wasn’t any follow-up or anything in the way of saying, “We hope you enjoyed your visit to our university and we appreciate your interest in KU. Nothing!”

Compared to the situation at KU, these mothers told of their daughters’ visits to other schools, Missouri and Wisconsin, for example. “We and several of our friends who also are KU graduates, and I’m sorry to tell you this, but our daughters had the most fun at these other schools. KU did not compare. These other schools, particularly Missouri, made us and our daughters feel ‘wanted’ and this wasn’t the case at KU. We were terribly disappointed.”

One or two or even three, four or 10 such experiences don’t necessarily reflect the overall attitude of the recruiting effort at KU, as this writer knows of situations where deans and others have gone out of their way to present KU in an attractive and enthusiastic manner. Nevertheless, KU is not known for rolling out the red carpet and making a student recruiting visit to KU a true highlight of that student’s process of trying to decide which college or university to attend.

KU officials are rightfully proud of the number of new students this year, and they are quick to point to their successful recruiting efforts, but, based on the spontaneous and candid reports of several long-time, loyal KU alumni, perhaps KU might get an even higher number of top students if more attention were given to the selection, screening and training of those who meet, visit and guide parents and their sons or daughters on tours of and introductions to the university and the campus.

There’s no reason KU should take a back seat to any university in how it prepares for visits by potential students and how it treats the students and/or parents while they are on the campus.

They may decide to attend some other school, even a for-profit school, for any of a number of reasons, but it shouldn’t be because of an arrogant, we-really-don’t-care-if-you-come-to-KU attitude. The KU visit should be THE best-planned, most informative and most pleasant of any college visit. It should remain a pleasant memory no matter where the young man or woman may attend school. It should be something the accompanying parents will remember and tell their friends about.

McKechnie’s attitude and approach is right on target, and it’s unfortunate all regents and university officials and faculty do not mirror his concern.

Comments

cop62 2 years, 3 months ago

You are right on point! Unfortunately, my son, and many others, experienced the same thing two years ago. When I brought this up to a friend of mine in the Alumni association I was told KU has brought in a new person to head this up and it is much better. So much for that!
KSU, Mizzou and even Arkansas are making high school seniors feel welcome, charged up about their school, etc. KU falls in line with the outside personna that we are Snob Hill.

I think it is time the Regents take a strong look at KU and realize there has been a slow decline in the total University performance (top to bottom) for some time and change is due - NOW.

Excellent editorial and thank you for bringing this to light - hopefully someone in Strong will pay attention.

jayhawkambassador 2 years, 3 months ago

As a student ambassador for KU I wish to personally apologize for those who have had a negative tour experience during their visit. The student ambassadors program is strictly voluntary, and KU is one of the few institutions where the students are nor paid. I can honestly say we strive to provide a positive experience to perspective students and their families. Unfortunately due to time and transportation limitations the majority of tours tend to follow along Jayhawk blvd. However, we are required to guide the tour groups through two buildings (when possible) and answer any questions; those questions we cannot answer are to be directed to the admissions staff or appropriate university department. Additionally, we are encouraged to provide contact methods (such as our email) to visitors should they have any questions in the future. Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.

Sincerely, Jayhawk Ambassador

konzahawk 2 years, 3 months ago

Unfortunately, this column is spot on. I know of several KU families, including my own, who were disappointed with the recruitment efforts of the University and went elsewhere. I work in Overland Park and have the honor of interacting with many students from Blue Valley North. What a wonderful high school. It is shocking how many of these students are going to K-State, MU and Arkansas. If we can't get the top-notch KC kids to come to Lawrence, how are we going to convince someone from Goodland to become a Jayhawk?

orbiter 2 years, 3 months ago

Wow, konzahawk, I'm so jealous you have the honor of interacting with BV North students! They are truly the greatest people in the world. And I agree, if there are anecdotal stories of unpaid 20year old tour guides not impressing soccer moms who come in here expecting a certain type of shoe licking and fashion sense then it means KU is totally SNOBBY! Thank god these poor folk can afford to send their kids out of state, because they felt the unpaid tour guides didn't give them the service they are entitled to.

Bob_Keeshan 2 years, 3 months ago

Maybe somebody could set Dolph up with a recruiting visit to MU, give them a chance to convince him to stay.

cowboy 2 years, 3 months ago

Have to agree , two kids to KU , one to K State. KU no effort , upon graduation in mid term , Faculty could care less about recognition in fine arts.

K State , involved , open , enthusiastic , better financial aid , impressive

Taxpayer 2 years, 3 months ago

I took the campus tour with my high school senior a few weeks ago. The tour was disappointing at best . Our campus tour guide took us from OUTSIDE the Union along Jayhawk Blvd. to Lindley Hall then behind Anschutz Library to Fraser Hall. What were the campus highlights pointed out to us? Well, that our tour guide had never stepped foot in Dyche Hall but she had heard that the largest beehive is somewhere in there (as a Lawrence resident and frequent visitor to the museum, I let out an audible gasp at this). We learned that the Study Abroad program is located in Lippincott Hall. That Potter Lake was dredged recently and goal posts were found in it but that the lake was disgusting and don't go there. That if you rub the nose of the statue in Lippincott Hall you will score well on tests. That there is no PE requirement because of the hills that you have to walk up and down. That if you need an easy A you should take a class at Robinson where you can take rock climbing... there are plays at Murphy Hall. That the Anschutz Library is big. And, of course that if you want to see some of the basketball players you should hang out at the cafe in Wescoe Hall. Our tour guide finds the stacks at Watson Library to be "creepy." Danforth Hall is a place you can get married but they are booked two years in advance (really?). We walked by incredibly old desks stacked in the halls at Lindley Hall and more at Fraser. Both buildings were hot and dusty.
NO MENTION was made of the state of the art technology equipment used in several academic programs. NO tour was given of our impressive facilities at the Union or multiple libraries. As an alumni, I was embarrassed by the tour. There were prospective students in our group from Chicago, New Mexico, and Virginia. I doubt they were impressed.

Windemere 2 years, 3 months ago

Hope the administration is paying attention and remedies the problem ASAP. Blame belongs to the person(s) in charge of these student tour guides, I don't blame the volunteers. It's a management and leadership lapse. Ignore it at your peril, ku.

sunshinemama 2 years, 3 months ago

Sorry to those who had a bad experience, but at least for us, KU did a great job recruiting. I had graduated from MU, so KU wasn't at the top of my list. However after taking my son to the visit, we both were extremely impressed. He had other options and visited several other big universities, but just started at KU this fall. The girl that showed us around KU was great. It was just her and our family. Not only was she dressed in all KU gear, but was really enthusiastic about what she had done at KU. She talked about the semester abroad, going to the bball championship game, classes, and was knowlegable about everything that was KU. The presentation when we first got there good, but it was the one on one tour of the campus that made it exceptional. Everyone was nice, the campus is beautiful, there is lots to do, and many oportunities for a graduate.

The new student orientation for KU this month was also well done. My 2 other children who attended the initial visit and are now hoping to attend KU too. Rock chalk!

yourworstnightmare 2 years, 3 months ago

A campus visit is an important part of deciding on a university to attend, and KU needs to get better at this. It sounds like they need to select students with actual knowledge of campus and KU traditions. I must say, though that "The student ambassador’s dress was terrible. The tight and short short-shorts were almost underwear. The top was almost the same..." describes 80% of KU female students.

However, basing one's decision solely on the campus visit and whether or not it was "fun" is not a good sign of the seriousness of the student.

Also, to even think that for-profit colleges offer the same product as KU is misguided. To compete with for-profit colleges on their terms would be a race to the bottom academically.

The Regents and KU need to do a better job of advertising the education that they offer and how it is distinct from and better than University of Phoenix or other for-profits.

Phillbert 2 years, 3 months ago

"this writer knows of situations where deans and others have gone out of their way to present KU in an attractive and enthusiastic manner."

But this being a Saturday Column we're not going to talk any more about those.

Bike_lover 2 years, 3 months ago

Student leaders for on-campus tours are usually getting paid, it's a work-study job. They need to be better supervised and trained to pitch KU and not just chew gum!

happyjayhawk 2 years, 3 months ago

The Student Ambassadors at KU are strictly on a volunteer basis. They recruit as volunteers because of their love for the university. So no, it is not a work-study job.

inspiration073090 2 years, 3 months ago

I was surprised by this article. I am not a student ambassador at KU, however, I do work in the Admissions Office and I give tours. The team I work with works hard trying to get students to come to KU.. I have only been on my team for a year so I cannot speak on things with past tours but we work hard to strive for good quality tours when a school comes to us. We cannot take you into a lot of building because most of our tours are only an hour long so the outside of the buildings is what we can only do, sometimes. Now not knowing the information is a different matter. If you plan a tour, the beginning of the semester many teams, who give tours, are in the process of recruiting members, meaning that you may get someone who is a “newbie” and still tweaking their tour skills. I was horrified my first tour by myself and I had more people than just two girls and their moms. So please understand it is an ongoing process of learning not just for you but for us as well. I took this article to heart and I know other KU staff members will too. We will continue to strive to give perspective students the best quality tours we can give them and make sure we represent KU in the best way as we can.

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