The new admissions standards presented to the Kansas Board of Regents last week wouldn’t necessarily make it harder for students to get into Kansas University, but it could make it less automatic.
For students who aren’t prepared for the academic demands of a major research university, that’s not all bad. Especially with the current costs associated with attending KU, the university isn’t doing students or their families a favor by admitting them to a school where they are unlikely to be successful.
Giving Kansas high school graduates every opportunity to attend a state university has been a long-standing tradition in Kansas. For many years, a Kansas high school diploma was all that was necessary for admission to any of the state’s six universities. Since the mid-1990s, Kansas students have had to meet minimal requirements for automatic admission. Unfortunately, graduation and student retention statistics indicate that too many students, from both Kansas and out of state, leave KU before completing their degrees. Raising both retention and graduation rates are important factors in boosting KU’s national rankings and prestige.
There’s no foolproof way to admit only students who will complete degrees, but KU officials are trying to improve the odds by setting higher standards for automatic admission to the university. Both in-state and out-of-state students who apply before Feb. 1 and meet the new standards, which include some combination of higher GPA and test scores, would be automatically admitted to KU for the following fall semester. All other applications would go to a review committee that would look at mitigating factors, decide which additional students could be admitted and perhaps connect those students to university services that could boost their chances of success.
That committee apparently will be busy. According to Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, about 65 percent of current KU students would have been accepted automatically under the new standards. If that holds true in the future, it means about a third of KU applicants would be screened by the review committee before being admitted.
KU is the only state university requesting additional admissions requirements. If the new standards are approved, the regents and KU officials need to emphasize that the goal is not to make KU more exclusive but to allow it to better serve its role as a major research university. Each of the state’s six universities has unique strengths and should play a special role in the state’s higher education system. The same is true of community colleges, which provide a great option for students who either want or need to take an intermediate academic step before entering a four-year university.
KU’s admissions proposal drew generally favorable response last week from the Board of Regents, which is scheduled to vote on the proposal at its June meeting. It’s hard to know what impact the new standards will have on KU admissions, but the change seems like a reasonable way to try to raise student retention and graduation rates, an accomplishment that would benefit not only the university but also individual students and the state.