KU’s admission standards remain toughest amid new changes to system; many schools to allow students in with a 2.25 GPA

photo by: Chris Conde

Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus is shown on Sept. 13, 2018.

Kansas’ other five public universities will soon join the University of Kansas in using grade point averages instead of class rank as a criterion for admissions.

But under the standards unanimously approved by the Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday, KU will still have the highest bar of the bunch.

Previously, Kansas State University, Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Pittsburg State University and Wichita State University used a combination of ACT scores and class rank in their admissions processes. Under the new standards, Kansas State will require an ACT score of at least 21 or a 3.25 cumulative GPA, and the other four will each require an ACT score of at least 21 or a cumulative GPA of 2.25.

“GPA is a better measure,” said Daniel Archer, vice president of academic affairs for the Regents. “It is consistently regarded as a more reliable predictor of college readiness.”

He added that “class rank is also flawed because it can really fluctuate from semester to semester.”

The University of Kansas already used ACT and GPA as its requirements, and its admissions standards are tougher than those of the other five state universities. Students will either need a 3.25 cumulative GPA and an ACT score of at least 21 or a cumulative GPA of 3.0 and an ACT score of at least 24. The university does allow 10 percent of its class to be outside of that range, however.

Chancellor Douglas Girod said KU determined its GPA requirement by “doing the analysis of what helps students be successful at KU. And we knew that students below that level struggle to be successful.”

For the four universities that are adopting a 2.25 GPA for admission, they will be watching how well those students perform in college. Information compiled for the board indicates the lower GPA standard will mean the vast majority of Kansas high school students would qualify to attend those universities. A recent analysis for the regents found 87% percent of all the state’s high school graduates would qualify to attend one of the four universities.

All six public universities also changed their pre-college curriculum requirements. As opposed to requiring specific courses, the universities will now require high school students to complete 21 classes, or “units,” in specific areas, including four units of English and three units each of math, natural science and social science.

“I think we’re all pretty pleased that this change will make it easier for students (and) it will make it easier for us,” said Girod, noting that previously, it was complicated to determine if certain courses fulfilled curriculum requirements.

Regents Chair Shane Bangerter asked whether the changes might make students ill-prepared for university courses.

“How do you then make sure that a student doesn’t take the very easiest path?” he questioned.

Archer said that with students being required to complete 21 units — and some in particular disciplines — there is enough of a framework “to ensure that they are taking courses that will prepare them for college.”

Ultimately, the Regents unanimously approved the motion. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the new requirements will be in force for next year’s crop of applicants. Board documents said several regulations within the schools would need to be changed before the new requirements became final.

Also at the meeting, the Regents agreed to ask the state for a $50 million increase in higher education funding for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Last year, the board requested $50 million but only received about $33 million. Interim Provost Carl Lejuez said that last year, KU and the KU Medical Center received about 25% to 30% of those funds, and that it is likely they would receive a similar percentage for 2020-2021.

Other KU news from the KBOR meeting:

• Girod was granted a $50,000 base salary increase, but said he would be giving that additional money to KU’s Student Affairs Emergency Fund, which provides financial assistance to students who have an immediate unexpected expense due to circumstances beyond their control. Girod was given the raise as part of the regents’ annual review of salaries for the chancellor and presidents of the other state universities.

• A request to install a new chiller for Haworth Hall’s cooling system was approved. In July, the chiller failed, leaving the building without a cooling system. Construction costs are estimated at $3 million, according to board documents.

• KU Med was granted a request to amend its ground lease with the Regents in order to build a new proton therapy center, which is an advanced form of radiation treatment, at the medical center’s campus in Kansas City, Kan.

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