Congratulations to Kansas higher education officials for taking a positive approach to legislation passed earlier this year that will bar state universities from using state tax dollars to pay for remedial courses.
It’s easy to see why university officials would be put off by the micromanaging tone of the bill, which was pushed by House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson. However, according to Kansas Board of Regents President and Chief Executive Officer Andy Tompkins, passage of the bill has prompted university leaders to take a hard look at the experience of freshmen.
University officials were particularly concerned about how the legislation would affect students who generally were high achievers but needed help in one subject — most often, math — but a change in the bill helped address that problem. Originally, the legislation would have lowered the number of freshmen or transfer students who could be admitted through the “exception window” for students who don’t meet minimum admission standards. Before the bill was passed, however, legislators agreed not to reduce the “exceptions” numbers but to require universities to develop individual plans for all students admitted through that window.
Remedial courses still can be offered, but state funds can’t be used. Tompkins said such courses probably would be funded through tuition.
The positive part of this action is that, rather than simply admitting students and offering remedial classes, state universities will have to look at what individual students need to be academically successful. Instead of just offering remedial courses and letting the chips fall where they may, universities will be more responsible for providing academic and support services to those students.
That’s important not only to the students and families paying tuition but to universities, like Kansas University, that are trying to raise their academic stature. Ranking entities pay close attention to student retention and graduation rates, both of which seem likely to rise as the universities work harder to meet the needs of their new students.
The remedial classes legislation may have offended some university officials, but it also made the valid point: Students who attend Kansas universities need to be prepared to do university work, and if universities are going to admit students who need remedial courses, they need to pay extra attention to making sure those students are successful. It’s nice to see state higher education officials getting that point and turning it into a positive for their students.