Topeka Some legislators say they are ready to consider closing further the window on who can attend a regents university.
House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, on Wednesday touted his bill that would prohibit the use of tax dollars for remedial courses at state universities, and cut in half the number of students who are admitted but don't meet minimum admission standards.
O'Neal said the students who need remedial course work or fall below minimum standards would be better served going to a community college than risk failing at a regents school.
He got support from several members of the House Appropriations Committee, including Chairman Marc Rhoades, R-Netwon.
"I like the idea," of O'Neal's bill, said Rhoades, who said the committee would probably work on the measure next week.
House Bill 2745, would prohibit state tax dollars spent on remedial college courses. It would also cut from 10 percent to 5 percent the number of freshman class or transfer admissions allowed under the "exception window," meaning they don't meet minimum admissions standards.
A fiscal note done by the state budget office said that in the 2010-11 academic year, state universities taught 16,234 remedial credit hours, at a cost of nearly $1.5 million in state funds. If the bill were enacted, and the universities stopped offering remedial courses, they would lose $3.3 million in tuition, the fiscal note said.
O'Neal said his legislation wouldn't prevent the universities from offering the courses; it would just end taxpayer support of remedial instruction. "That just is a real aggravation to me," he said. Last year, O'Neal proposed a bill that would have charged the cost of remedial college courses back to the student's school district, but that proposal didn't go anywhere.
Approximately 14.5 percent of the entering freshman class take a remedial class with the vast majority being in math.
O'Neal also said universities should reduce the number of students who are admitted but don't meet the minimum criteria. To gain entrance to a regents school, freshmen from Kansas must score at least a 21 on the ACT, or graduate in the top one-third of their high school class, or complete a pre-college curriculum with at least a 2.0 grade point average.
But schools are allowed to admit up to 10 percent of freshman under the "exception window." O'Neal's proposal would reduce that to 5 percent.
Freshman retention rates for students who met minimum admission standards are more than 20 percent higher when compared to those who were admitted as exceptions, officials said.
O'Neal said the exception window was first put into place when legislators enacted the minimum admission standards. He said it was a way to satisfy Kansans who said that their children had a right to attend a Kansas school.
In the 2010-11 academic year, 15,810 Kansas residents were admitted as freshman in regents universities and 711, or 4.5 percent, of those were admitted through the exception window.
Of the six regents schools, three exceeded 5 percent in the number of freshman students admitted as exceptions — Emporia State, 8.1 percent; Pittsburg State, 7.1 percent and Fort Hays State, 6.8 percent. Kansas State was a 3.7 percent; Wichita State at 1.6 percent, and Kansas University had the lowest rate of admitting students under the exception at 0.4 percent.
But several legislators weren't supportive of O'Neal's proposal.
State Rep. Lana Gordon, R-Topeka, said remedial courses were necessary because sometimes students who were high achievers in most subjects may need some help in one subject, such as math.
She also said she was concerned that if the exception window was reduced, then only athletes would will be allowed through. "I have a problem with that," she said.
Kansas Board of Regents President and Chief Executive Officer Andy Tompkins said the board was neutral on the bill.
Fort Hays State University President Ed Hammond said he supported keeping the exception window as it is.
He said FHSU interviews students to determine if they would be good students admitted through the exception window. He said if these students graduate college "isn't that in Kansas' best interest?"