Will your child graduate high school and enter a Kansas regents university? That depends on whether they meet “Qualified Admissions” (QA) requirements. The Kansas Board of Regents has held several working group meetings to revise those requirements, with possible action to be taken this September.
Kansas was the last state with “open admissions”—any high school graduate could go to a state university. But by 2001, graduating Kansas seniors were supposed to meet new QA requirements: an ACT of 21 or be in the top one-third of class. There was a QA high school curriculum as well, requiring 3 units of science (including chemistry or physics), 4 units of English, 3 units of math, and 3 units of social studies with certain specifications.
The Regents have approved temporary changes to the Qualified Admissions criteria in 2009 but faltered on how much high school mathematics to require.
A draft of the final proposed QA criteria is now under consideration. New QA criteria move from 13 to 18 units by: adding one math unit, requiring one-half unit in Civics, requiring one unit of Fine Arts, and requiring three elective units chosen from: math, English, natural science, social science, foreign languages, computer/information systems, personal finance, speech/debate/forensics. Much of the debate is on the added math requirement.
But the real debate should center on increasing the exception window from 10 percent to 15 percent. Currently, students who do not meet the other criteria for attending regent’s universities are still accepted through a “ten percent window.” And in this era of tuition-driven enrollment, every warm body counts. Several state universities are very close to filling their ten percent window.
Currently, a student with an ACT of 14-20, who is in the bottom third of their class, who has completed far less than the QA curriculum with barely a 2.00 GPA can still enter through the window. Those students can currently make up ten percent of the freshman enrollment but they do not have a chance of completing a bonafide bachelors degree.
Still, they are underwritten by the Kansas taxpayer. In the 1980s, barely 43 percent of graduating Kansas high school students entered college. For each dollar in tuition paid by the student toward instructional costs, Kansas paid two dollars. Today nearly twice that percentage enter tertiary education within five years after graduation. And today, Kansas can only afford to pay about one-to-one. The reason is simple. Too many students are going to state universities who are not college ready. And it costs state universities to staff the year or two of courses for them until they flunk out. Because the state cannot afford to subsidize twice the number of students, state support-per-student has shrunk. Today’s college-ready students are paying higher tuition because state resources are being spread out to support many students who should be in technical schools and industrial training.
To prevent further state tuition increases, the admissions “window” should not be expanded to 15 percent, but should immediately be reduced: Ten percent still in 2010, but then nine percent in 2011, eight percent in 2012, etc. until in 2020 there is no exemption window. All students would have to secure an ACT of 21 (or 990 SAT) to enter regents schools, from high school graduation, from community college transfer, or to enter any other degree program. International students of course would not have this test score but would need the equivalent credentials.
This would give the State Board of Education time to implement a statewide ACT-for-every-student program similar to a dozen other states. With a new state emphasis on career-readiness, ACT. Inc. provides an earlier WorkKeys job skills assessment to accommodate students pursuing vocational routes.
Not every Kansas student desires a college education. Nor is every student college ready. It is time to begin closing the window, not open it wider.