Research shows that “...60% of incoming freshmen require some remedial instruction.” In Kansas, only 25 percent of high-school senior test-takers are considered by ACT to be college-ready.
Simply, too many students are beginning college unprepared for college level coursework. At some high schools, all students are counseled to take a college prep curriculum when many would be better-served by a vocational-technical route. Kansas college-able students pay higher tuition today because the state is underwriting more students who are not college-able.
Qualified Admissions currently allows a 10% window for students who do not meet the criteria. A Kansas Board of Regents committee is proposing new QA criteria that open this window to 15%! Instead, a “hard 21” ACT requirement should be put in place and phased in over the next 10 years, reducing the 10 percent window by one percent per year.
Current exhortations to regents schools to increase retention rates will drive grade inflation and cheapen the value of degrees. This is unfair to bonafide students who completed the rigorous programs.
Technical schools are critical for training students for various trade skills; their faculty are hired from those trades. But tech schools have no business offering college academic curricula including general education courses. Lacking such faculty, they must resort to part time adjuncts that may lack the credentials. Academic faculty at both community colleges and universities should be evaluated by colleagues on appropriate criteria for active participation in the academic community and not hired by administrators merely to generate credit hours.
Cheap instructors, cheap courses, and cheap degrees are becoming a problem nationwide as various “alternative” delivery systems are being touted as equivalent to face-to-face teaching. The current national embarrassment over some for-profit schools recruiting non-college able students is closely tied to the problem with online courses. As more students graduate with online courses, the inadequacy of this format in many fields is becoming apparent. A rapidly growing number of programs in medical and pharmacy schools, as well as the performance arts, are prohibiting transfer of online labs and performance courses. Some are excluding online courses completely.
Accrediting agencies including the Higher Learning Commission have been called on the carpet for accrediting questionable programs offering inflated credit. All the teacher education schools in Kansas easily acquire accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), a questionable credential changing its criteria every few years.
Online programs from outside of Kansas are approved by the Board of Regents in batches of hundreds based on questionable outside “accreditation” while the six regents schools have to justify adding any single program. We have become a lawless “Wild West” when it comes to academics.
We must interface the best young minds from Kansas with the best academic minds we can find. We can afford to do that if we exclude the non-college able, confine community colleges, tech schools and universities to their respective roles, enforce academic standards and keep bogus programs out of the state, and do not bog the academic enterprise down with No Child Left Behind accountability.
Yes, Kansas has the agricultural research corridor, an excellent medical school and facility, and is a center of aviation research. Cheerleading for national funding and recognition has its place. But there are far more serious threats to Kansas higher education during this long-term economic downturn. A governor does not make the decisions on these issues, but has the power and influence to work with the Board of Regents, the Legislature, the universities, and the public to maintain and strengthen our higher education system.
Kansans have the commonsense. They need to hear the details.