This is a very special weekend in Lawrence as thousands of students from around the country and abroad will be participating in commencement activities at Kansas University.
Thousands of parents and friends of these students will be in town to watch the graduates stroll down Campanile Hill into Memorial Stadium to receive their diplomas.
It is an emotional time in many ways.
Families have sacrificed, saved, and gone into debt to help fund their sons’ or daughters’ years on Mount Oread. Many students, a good percentage of the student body, have held jobs while going to school to help pay for their college education, along with their living expenses. Others have enjoyed relatively stress-free years as students, with mother and dad paying most of the bills.
Numerous families will be so proud to see the first member of their family receive a college degree.
A large number, probably the majority of the men and women receiving degrees, as well as their parents and maybe their spouses, are wondering what’s the next chapter. Do these graduates have firm job offers? If not, what are the chances of finding a job that ties in with the academic schooling they have received while a KU student?
Have their years on Mount Oread prepared them well for a successful career? Have various officials, deans, schools, advisers, etc., helped them make contact with possible employers?
U.S. News and World Report magazine provides a thorough and deep survey of American universities, ranking them on various yardsticks.
Now at graduation time, it would be interesting to know how graduating students, their parents and even faculty members would grade their respective universities.
How does KU rank in the eyes of its students? Has it measured up to what they expected when, as high school seniors, they selected KU, perhaps over other schools such as nearby Kansas State, Missouri or some other?
Millions of dollars have been paid in tuition and many more millions on living expenses by those who have spent years on Mount Oread prior to Sunday’s graduation exercises. Do the students and their parents think they got their money’s worth?
What yardsticks should be used to judge the excellence, effectiveness or other qualities of a university in the eyes of a student or a parent? In college sports such as KU basketball, there are post-season tournaments to determine the best teams. If such a competition to judge quality measures were held among universities — perhaps, for example, among schools within an athletic conference and then on a national basis — how would KU fare?
Would KU win the conference championship on student-parent satisfaction? How about a national title? Would KU make it into the “Sweet 16,” or perhaps the Final Four? Or would KU not make it out of the first or second round as has been the case occasionally with the Jayhawk basketball team?
What measurements might be considered: excellence and stimulation of the faculty, costs, academic skills of fellow students, facilities, availability of scholarships, the level of counseling and/or advising by faculty, help in developing employment opportunities following graduation; non-academic clubs and organizations, lifestyle, housing opportunities, leadership by the school’s administration and the environment and facilities of the host city?
Again, using athletic competition as a model, there are similar factors that play a significant role in determining winners and runner-ups: the excellence of the head coach and assistant coaches, recruiting skills, facilities, tradition, student and administration support and private fiscal support.
KU is an excellent state-assisted school but it has serious competition with many other excellent — and some truly superior — universities. Customer satisfaction is extremely important, and that is why it would be interesting to know how graduating students and their parents would grade the institution. Also, in their opinion, what is needed to make KU an even better, more effective and more attractive university?
KU’s leaders, those serving on the Kansas Board of Regents, university alumni and friends and Kansas legislators cannot be complacent and rest on past laurels. The competition is not resting, and the KU chancellor and academic team need to be just as aggressive and committed to excellence and winning as the KU basketball teams under the leadership of recent coaches Larry Brown, Roy Williams and Bill Self.
KU graduates should have the feeling they are well prepared and well-conditioned, winners, champions — and ready to take on all comers as they walk down Campanile Hill. It also would be nice if they had solid jobs lined up after they take a short break from years of classwork.