Board of regents change college admission standards

The Kansas Board of Regents has voted unanimously to change qualified admissions standards for the state’s six public universities, ending a mandate enacted about 20 years ago that required applicants to first complete a pre-college curriculum in high school.

Instead, high school grads wanting to go to the state’s six public universities will now just be required to have achieved a minimum 2.25 grade point average in high school, on a 4.0 scale.

It’s no secret that enrollment at the state’s six public universities has been decreasing over the last decade.

There has not been any mention by the Board of Regents about whether this change in college admissions policy will help or hurt the college student drop-out rate – the number of kids who enroll in college but quit before their second year of study. Eliminating the college-prep coursework requirement will allow more kids not ready for college to go anyway if they can secure funding for it - and that seems to be the main reason for the changes. Send more kids to college.

By the Board of Regents’ own account, however, the number of kids meeting college readiness standards in Kansas is not great.

In the May 2018 report called “Highlight of System Enrollments,’’ the Regents announced the following statistics regarding the number of Kansas high school grads meeting ACT benchmarks scores - English, 69 percent; math, 46 percent; reading, 54 percent; and science, 41 percent. In addition, the percentage of Kansas high school grads meeting the ACT benchmarks in all four subjects was listed at just 29 percent.

While all of these college readiness scores for Kansas high school grads were slightly ahead of the national averages, they didn’t actually make a strong case for eliminating college-prep coursework. In fact, just the opposite.

The number of students enrolled at Kansas State University last spring decreased by 2.9 percent from the year before and marked the fifth straight year of spring enrollment declines at KSU, it was reported.

The number of students enrolled at the six universities governed by the Regents also declined in 2017, including a 4.1 percent decline (984 students) at Kansas State University, but an increase of 3 percent or more at Fort Hays State University and Wichita State University, officials said. The University of Kansas reported a small increase in student enrollment in 2017, but Pittsburg State University reported 195 fewer students and Emporia State University reported 155 fewer students.

Pat Bosco, dean of students at K-State, said the university worked hard in 2017 to improve recruitment of out-of-state students, but couldn’t compensate for losses among international students and a shrinking population of Kansans entering college. KSU’s fall total was 22,795. In the spring of 2018, the KSU enrollment was 21,400.

“The reality is there are fewer students from Kansas attending any college and far fewer international students studying in the United States now,” Bosco said. “It’s a perfect demographic storm. Our market share within the state has been steady, but the pool of Kansas high school students pursuing any secondary education continues to shrink.”

Under the new college admissions plan, a sudent applying to ESU, FHSU, PSU or WSU could gain admission by scoring at least a 21 on the ACT or achieve a minimum 2.25 GPA in high school. At KSU, the same 21 score on the ACT would be applied, but the GPA benchmark would be 3.25. At KU, the same 21 score on the ACT would be applied and 3.25 GPA or 24 ACT score and 3.0 GPA.

In 2009, the total student tuition and required fees paid to the six state universities totaled $475 million. By 2017, the total tuition and required fees paid to the six state universities had increased 44 percent – to $719 million. At KU alone, the tuition and required fees for one semester rose from $3,706.85 in 2009 to $5,573.95 in 2019.

State funding to the six state universities decreased 16 percent from $675 million in 2009 to $569 million in 2017.

Enrollment at the state’s community colleges went down 7.5 percent from 2007 to 2017, according to the Regents’ website - from 123,472 to 114,247, while enrollment at the state’s technical schools increased 225 percent over the same time period - from 4,320 in 2007 to 14,042 in 2017.

The day after this college admissions change was announced, the Board of Regents anounced it would seek an additional $95.3 million in state aid next year.

The Regents need to take into account the concerns of business and industry leaders, who say neither high school, two-year colleges nor four-year colleges are doing a very good job of equipping workers with three important attributes/skills - professionalism and work ethic, teamwork and collaboration skills and verbal commuication skills.

The fact that enrollment at the state’s technical schools has increased 225 percent over the last 10 years or so should be celebrated. Our society needs more skilled tradesmen just like we need more doctors and engineers.

The world of higher education is changing, and the Board of Regents is grappling with that. There are more opportunities for dual credits - community college and technical school - and more on-line college opportunities, too.

Because of the high cost of college these days, it’s important that those students enrolling are as ready for it as possible. The worst case scenario for them is a mountain of debt with nothing to show for it.

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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