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Archive for Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Heard on the Hill: Law school clarifies debt rankings; KU School of Medicine in Wichita has raised $3.9 million for its expansion so far; Jayhawk Motorsports team earns championship

July 3, 2012, 12:01 a.m. Updated July 3, 2012, 8:49 a.m.

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• First on the docket today is something of a clarification of a previous post. I had reported about the average debt level of students leaving law school at KU.

U.S. News and World Report issued a list of the schools with the lowest debt levels. The magazine had reported KU’s average level of debt among the 2011 graduating class at $41,574. Mindie Paget, a spokeswoman for the law school, called me on Monday to say that the actual figure is significantly higher that what was initially reported, or about $67,598 for each student with at least one loan. The magazine hasn’t updated its figures, she said.

So why the discrepancy?

The magazine’s figures are taken from information sent to the American Bar Association, which accredits law schools. Paget said the association asked KU — along with other schools — to take a look at how it was coming up with its student debt data.

The questions are pretty broad, Paget said, and don’t specify a methodology for schools to use, so the question of how to determine the debt is left to each school.

Here’s how KU used to do it: They subtracted the incoming class’ average total student debt (representing undergraduate debt) from the average total student debt of the graduating class (representing undergraduate and law school debt) in an effort to eliminate undergraduate debt. UPDATE: I updated this paragraph to reflect the accurate formula. If you used what I had originally written, you would come up with a negative number, which wouldn't make much sense.

I think the new way makes more sense, though. KU is taking the total student debt of the graduating class, then subtracting out the undergraduate debt of the same class, and dividing by the number of students in the class with at least one loan.

It’s a lot of math (at least for a journalism major like me), but what it really seems to boil down to is a comparison of the same class’ figures, which probably helps out quite a bit. The ABA signed off on the new methodology, Paget said.

Paget told me the ABA is working harder to ensure that its metrics are easily comparable among law schools.

“They’re doing more of that now, and we’re behind that,” she said.

• The KU School of Medicine’s Wichita campus is still looking for private funds to pay for its recent shift to a four-year campus there. H. David Wilson, the dean who oversees the Wichita campus, provided an update on the fundraising effort in the school’s summer KU Wichita magazine.

The campus is expanding from 110 third- and fourth-year students to more than 165 students in all four years of medical education. To pay for that, the school is using a combination of tuition and $5.1 million in private funds.

Wilson reported that $3.9 million of that total has been raised so far, leaving the school still looking for $1.2 million from donors.

Wilson, you may recall, isn’t shy about asking for money. I remember one of our first conversations when he was hired three years ago, when he told me about his plans to ask for $100 million. In return, he’d put that person’s name on the medical school.

I assume that offer still stands, but he hasn’t had any takers quite yet.

• Congrats to KU’s Jayhawk Motorsports team, which earned top honors among an international field of 80 opponents in the Formula SAE West competition.

That competition ended June 23 in Lincoln, Neb.

Students design and construct a Formula-style race car, and spend a year working on it, according to a KU statement.

It’s the first championship at a Formula car student competition in KU history for the team of 33 seniors and 20 underclassmen volunteers.

• Heard on the Hill will be taking a day off to watch some fireworks (real ones, not the figurative ones that occasionally happen on the KU campus), but will be back on Thursday. This doesn’t, of course, excuse you from submitting your tips for Heard on the Hill to ahyland@ljworld.com.

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