A report released last week by the Kansas Board of Regents provides a significant endorsement for the qualified admissions standards for Kansas students who want to attend one of the state’s six Regents universities.
Prior to 1996, state universities had an open admissions policy that guaranteed admission to any graduate of an accredited Kansas high school. That policy appealed to the state’s populist sensibilities, but it didn’t necessarily benefit state universities or the Kansas students admitted to them.
The qualified admissions standards for Kansas students were, and are, relatively modest. The latest standards, which went into effect for students who entered high school in the fall of 2011, require students to complete a specific pre-college curriculum with a grade-point average of at least 2.0. In addition, students must meet one of the following criteria: an ACT composite score of at least 21, a combined SAT score of 980 in math and critical reading OR a ranking in the top third of their high school graduating class.
To provide flexibility for university admissions officials, the schools are allowed to have up to 10 percent of their freshman class admitted without meeting the set admissions standards.
Although there is good reason to allow some special exceptions to any rule, last week’s report clearly shows that students who haven’t met the qualified admissions standards have a far lower probability of success at state universities.
From 2010 through 2012, 50.6 to 57.1 percent of freshmen admitted as exceptions were still in school as sophomores. For students who met the qualified admissions standards that retention rate was 80 percent. Students admitted as exceptions also were far less likely to graduate. System-wide, only 26.4 percent of freshmen admitted as exceptions completed a degree within six years. That rate for freshmen who met the admissions standards was 59.2 percent.
Interestingly, Kansas University led the state in both the freshmen retention and graduation rates. Its retention rate for freshmen admitted as exceptions was 64.9 percent for Kansas residents and 80 percent for non-residents. At KU, 64.9 percent of all freshmen who met the admissions standards graduated within six years.
Legislators ordered state universities to compile these figures because they were concerned about the amount of time and money the schools are spending to provide remedial courses for their students. The numbers that the Board of Regents came up with should be enlightening.
While it’s unlikely that universities will be able to eliminate remedial classes aimed at filling some academic gaps, qualified admissions standards are having the desired effect of making sure the students they admit are ready — either after high school or perhaps a stint at a community college — to handle university academic work.