Local official speaks against higher KU admission standards

7/5/2012

By RACHAEL GRAY

By RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

After a Kansas state school opted to raise its admission standards, a

local education and Kansas Board of Regents member is speaking out

against the decision.

The state board approved a proposal from University of Kansas

officials to boost entry requirements for incoming freshmen, starting in

fall 2016. Prospective students would have to earn at least a "B"

average in high school to gain automatic admission, while others would

have their applications reviewed by a committee.

Students can now enter any state university by scoring 21 out of 36

points on the ACT college-entrance exam, having a 2.0 grade-point

average in a college prep curriculum or graduating in the top third of

their high-school classes. The state plans to change those requirements

in fall 2014, so that students must both achieve the ACT score and meet

one of the other two requirements.

The new standards for automatic admittance to the KU would be even

more stringent. A student with an ACT score of 21, 22 or 23 would have

to earn a 3.25 GPA on a 4-point scale in high school. A student who

scored 24 or better on the ACT could get in with a 3.0 GPA in high

school.

Janie Perkins, regent and USD 457 supplemental programs coordinator, voted against the measure.

"My concern is that the Board of Regents already have standards in

place for all the state institutions. I work with a very large

population of at-risk students in our district. Many of them try their

best to be A and B students, but many struggle and it's very difficult,"

she said.

Perkins said since KU is a state institution, and state taxpayers pay

for the institution, the college should promote more in-state students.

"I feel that our taxpayers already pay into the system, and for that

reason, (KU) should be more accessible to students, instead of building

roadblocks," she said.

Perkins said she could understand tougher admission standards if KU was a private university.

"I didn't agree with them changing the standards. I know they have

their reasons and I respect that but then again, I felt increasing those

standards would keep some students from even thinking they could get

in," she said.

Perkins said she understands that some applications may be reviewed

by a committee to weigh extra curricular activities and involvement for

admissions.

Some students work night shifts at beef packing plants in southwest

Kansas and don't have the time or energy to attend school and

participate in extra-curricular activities, she said.

And others may not be aware of the other standards that could be an exception to the rule.

"I'm just afraid some of the students are not going to be aware of

the requirements for post-secondary education. Some of them may see part

of the information and not even apply. Many of our students, especially

here in western Kansas are first-generation college students," she

said.

The regents also approved tuition increases that are expected to

raise an additional $31 million annually, to help offset rising

operating costs at the state's six universities and the University of

Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan. The increases will vary --

and some students won't see higher rates — with the biggest boost

experienced by new, out-of-state undergraduates at KU.

The regents acknowledged concerns that fewer high school graduates

can afford to attend state universities as tuition rises each year, but

said extra funds are necessary to keep programs from slipping. Boosting

admission standards at KU is designed to improve graduation rates by

making sure incoming students are prepared.

According to the university, about 65 percent of its freshmen would

have hit either mark, and Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little stressed

that students who can't will have their applications reviewed

individually. In many cases, she said, they'll be admitted and receive

guidance on how they can improve their chances of succeeding.

Regents still expect to draft regulations to help flesh out the

details of how the new plan will work. KU officials believe that not

only will a lower percentage of students drop out but that some high

achievers will stay in Kansas instead of going out-of-state.

The board approved the policy, 8-1, with Perkins casting the only

dissenting vote, citing concerns about the effects of the higher

standards and the university's plans to set a new Feb. 1 deadline for

students who want to be admitted automatically.

The regents were unanimous in backing tuition increases proposed by

the state universities but, in what has become an annual ritual, they

bemoaned the need to raise the additional funds.

While KU's increase for new out-of-state undergraduates is 6.9

percent, about 65 percent of its returning undergraduates are in a

program that sets a single, guaranteed rate for four years. Fort Hays

State University proposed no increase for its out-of-state

undergraduates.

Tuition increases for undergraduates from Kansas will range from 2.9

percent at Fort Hays State to 6.2 percent at Emporia State University.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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