Kansas state universities accepted a total of 815 freshmen who didn’t meet the schools’ minimum admission requirements last year, according to a new Kansas Board of Regents Report.
These “exceptions” made up as little as a fraction of 1 percent to as high as 7 percent of each university’s entire 2014-2015 in-state freshman class, according to the report. Exceptions made up 1 percent to 10 percent of universities’ out-of-state freshmen admissions.
The Regents this week approved forwarding their Annual Report on Qualified Admissions to the Kansas Legislature, as required by law. The report also sparked discussion on whether newly instated — and tougher — automatic admission standards will negatively affect future reports.
Kansas University’s exception rate of half a percent of in-state freshmen and 2 percent of out-of-state freshmen was the state’s second-lowest, according to the report.
Wichita State University had the lowest percentage of exceptions, with two-tenths of a percent of in-state freshmen and 1 percent of out-of-state freshmen. Fort Hays State University had the highest, with 6.9 percent of in-state freshmen and 9.7 percent of out-of-state freshmen.
Gary Alexander, the Regents vice president of academic affairs, said the law allows such exceptions to automatic admissions standards to make up as much as 10 percent of each school’s freshman admits.
Percentage-wise, he said, “the numbers are really very low.”
Prior to 2001, Kansas universities guaranteed admission to anyone who graduated from an accredited Kansas high school, according to the Regents.
Then automatic admission standards got higher, requiring freshmen to score at least 21 on the ACT, graduate in the top third of their class or complete a specific pre-college curriculum with a GPA of at least 2.0.
However, state universities have the discretion to admit freshmen who don’t meet those criteria. According to the Regents, every student admitted as an exception is supposed to have an “individual success plan.”
The 2014-2015 qualified admissions report approved Wednesday will be the last under those old standards.
This year new automatic admission standards for freshmen went into effect at five state schools. All in-state freshmen must complete an approved curriculum with a 2.0 GPA, plus score at least 21 on the ACT (980 on the SAT) or graduate in the top third of their class.
KU’s new automatic admission criteria, which apply to freshmen starting in fall 2016, are tougher. In addition to completing an approved college-prep curriculum, students must have a 3.0 high school GPA and score 24 on the ACT (1090 on the SAT), or have a 3.25 GPA and score 21 on the ACT (980 on the SAT).
Students who don’t meet those criteria will have their applications reviewed by a committee, according to a KU announcement from 2012, when the new standards were approved. The committee will consider factors such as strength of high school coursework, academic potential, diversity, family circumstances and the student’s ability to benefit from support available at the university.
“Having these new standards will help students be prepared and hopefully avoid the initial challenges some students experience when they start college. We’ll also be able to direct the right support services to students when they arrive here,” KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said in the announcement.
On Wednesday, some Regents expressed concerns about possible negative effects of tougher automatic admission standards.
“I’m very concerned,” Regent Ann Brandau-Murguia said.
She said she worried tougher requirements might deter some of the very populations universities need to attract, such as minority or economically disadvantaged students — even if there is room for them to be admitted as exceptions.
“We have had concerns raised about the impact it may have on enrollment,” said Alexander, the Regents vice president of academic affairs.
Alexander said the new standards still allow for exceptions and that they really shouldn’t have much effect. However, officials can’t yet say for sure what changes they will see.
“We’re tasked to monitor the impact of these requirements and be able to answer your question with some real data,” he said.
Board of Regents chairman Shane Bangerter said he expects that raising the standards “raises the bar.”
“What it will do is to motivate kids to be better prepared,” he said.
Several university leaders echoed that.
Pittsburg State University President Steve Scott said his school clearly communicates expectations with high schools so college-bound students know what’s required.
“They’ll have a four-year runway, in essence,” Scott said. “That’s part of the initiative — to elevate their work, their standards, and then students come to us better prepared.”
Fort Hays State University President Mirta Martin said for some students who don’t meet minimum admission requirements, Fort Hays advisers may suggest they begin their education at a community college.
Martin said they don’t want to admit students who aren’t positioned for success, because if a student fails out and returns home after a semester or a year, “the likelihood of them returning to higher education is almost exponentially zero.”
Following are the numbers of freshmen accepted to state universities in 2014-2015 as exceptions to automatic admission standards, followed by the percent of the class they make up.
Wichita State — 8 (0.2 percent)
Kansas University — 68 (0.5 percent)
Kansas State — 83 (0.9 percent)
Pittsburg State — 68 (3.2 percent)
Emporia State — 91 (5.8 percent)
Fort Hays State — 127 (6.9 percent)
WSU — 8 (1 percent)
KU — 174 (2 percent)
K-State — 69 (2.2 percent)
PSU — 48 (5.6 percent)
ESU — 18 (8.9 percent)
FHSU — 53 (9.7 percent)
Source: Kansas Board of Regents