KU’s performance agreement with Regents shows mixed results

photo by: Associated Press

A bus passes in front of Strong Hall on Nov. 16, 2015, on the University of Kansas campus.

The University of Kansas saw a recent rise in the number of degrees awarded and the retention of students, but its ranking for receiving federally funded research dollars dropped, according to its most recent performance agreement with the Kansas Board of Regents.

The performance agreements for KU and the other five Regents universities were approved during the Kansas Board of Regents’ January meeting Wednesday. Approval of the agreements means that the universities are eligible for 100 percent of any new funding appropriated to the Regents.

The reports comprise six long-term goals that each university decides upon. The goals must be measurable and reportable, according to “Foresight 2020,” which is the Regents’ annual progress report and the way it assesses trends in higher education. Each university tracks several years and establishes a baseline, then determines if it has gone up or down from the baseline.

According to KU’s performance agreement, with the most current data from the 2017 academic year, the number of degrees awarded had increased from 5,777 to 5,909. The percentage of degrees awarded in science, technology, engineering and math fields was up slightly from 29.5 percent to 29.9 percent.

First- to second-year retention rates also increased, from a baseline of 80.2 percent up to 83 percent.

Meanwhile, in the 2017 academic year, KU saw a drop in federally funded research dollars, growth in its entrepreneurship dollars and a dip in its philanthropic support.

The university fell from 38th to 46th in the federally financed research and development expenditures ranking. According to the report, that was due to the loss of several key researchers. The biggest hit was in medicinal chemistry, which saw the loss of five researchers over several years. As researchers leave the university, so do millions of dollars in active grant dollars, the report noted.

Because it did not meet that particular indicator, in June KU requested and was able to make an amendment to its performance agreement, allowing it to use total research funding instead of just federal research funding.

Another indicator that dipped was commercialization and entrepreneurship, which broadly measures the university’s activities to convert research into new products or businesses. The university tracks the activity by measuring the number of licensing agreements and other similar agreements for university research. The number of those agreements dropped from a baseline of 1,129 down to 1,029

Because of the drop, KU requested another amendment in June, which was approved to select an alternative performance metric of graduate programs ranked in the top 25 by U.S. News & World Report for the next two years.

As for philanthropic support, KU reported $171 million for the reporting period; however, the baseline was skewed at $187.7 million, the report says, because of the success of KU Endowment’s Far Above fundraising campaign, which raised more than $1.6 billion over eight years.

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