Four years ago, the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) announced tougher standards for admission to regents schools. First, they added an extra high school math course to the QA college prep curriculum. But they also increased the requirements for admission to Kansas regents universities.
Until now, high school graduates had to have either the QA curriculum OR an ACT-of-21 (or SAT of 980) OR be in the top 1/3rd of the class.
But beginning this fall of 2015, students will have to complete the Qualified Admissions curriculum with a 2.0 GPA AND meet one of the following requirements: ACT score of at least 21, SAT score of at least 980, or graduate in the top 1/3rd of your class. They grandfathered this higher requirement for four years to give Kansas high schools enough time to prepare students for these higher standards.
Regents universities across Kansas have kept careful count of how many of their entering freshmen would not have met the upcoming 2015 QA requirements. This figure has been up to 30 to 50 percent of their entering freshman classes during the last three years. There has always been a ten percent window to admit students who do not meet the QA standards. But how can they squeeze 30-50 percent into a 10 percent window?
One year ago I described the impending train wreck this would cause in Fall 2015. Unless something changed, Fall 2015 would see a dramatic drop in Kansas university students (and tuition money) and a massive increase in enrollment at Kansas community colleges.
But never underestimate the creativity of Kansas higher education. There is a provision in 88-29-3(b)(2) that allows “provisional admission” to “...any applicant who is given permission from the state educational institution to enroll as a degree-seeking student at the state educational institution for a probationary period of time, subject to restrictions....” that each university determines. These restrictions include limited credit hours, maintaining a minimum GPA, etc.
Thus, a provisional admission category previously used for a few students will be used to accept up to 30, 40 or 50 percent of the freshman students that will not meet the new Qualified Admissions criteria.
This is a clever way for Kansas universities to avoid a massive drop in enrolment. But is also takes the “admission” out of Qualified Admissions. Previously, any student who did not make at least one of the QA criteria and did not fit in the 10 percent window could go to community college to “prove themselves,” and then move on to a four-year program. Now, students who do not meet the new Qualified Admissions criteria are still admitted to the university to “prove themselves.”
What formerly might have been a flood of students to community colleges may now be a flood to Kansas universities. Technically, provisional admission could be used by universities to admit students who did not even meet the older QA criteria, and students who had to go to community colleges could now attend Kansas universities too. However, this might severely decrease a university’s retention and graduation rates. Most universities are not expected to admit those students.
Fall of 2015 is coming and time will tell.
What did not occur in this fiasco is a reappraisal of a QA policy that went one course too far. Small rural schools are still being blamed for not offering the fourth math. But some rural Kansas schools graduate less than ten students; the whole high school has less than 40 students. Their limited staff must teach across disciplines and there is no talent nor time to offer the added math course.
But far more students come from larger schools that offer the full QA curriculum—but some students will still not take the fourth math. They simply do not have the interest or math skill to pursue that added math. They may very well be “college-able”—but want to study literature or art or history.
Students are unique and their talents vary widely. The fourth math requirement was a course too far. But instead of asking the regents to modify a flawed policy, Kansas universities engineered a clever end run. In doing so, Qualified Admissions has moved closer to becoming “Open Admissions.”