Similar to Kansas K-12 education, leadership also changed at the Kansas Board of Regents. Longtime and well-respected KBOR president and CEO Andy Tompkins retired. Dr. Brian Flanders became the new KBOR President and brings his long academic experience to this important job.
Born in Edson, Kansas, Dr. Flanders graduated from Colby Community College and Kansas State University, with degrees in animal science and in curriculum and instruction. Flanders taught at Butler Community College and Manhattan Area Technical College before working at the KBOR, rising to Vice President for Workforce Development and leading the Kansas Postsecondary Technical Education Authority. Flanders’ in-the-trenches experience will be critical in facing the challenges posed by a Kansas Legislature that has shown little appreciation for the intellectual value of public education and a nationwide shift toward viewing education as a private good. And never have the pressures from fraudulent national diploma mills and the techno-educational complex been greater.
Appointed by the Governor, the Kansas Board of Regents has likewise seen a rapid turnover, with most KBOR members having just a few years experience.
The KBOR transfer and articulation committee continues its efforts to coerce Kansas university faculty to standardize regents university, community college, and tech school coursework. Each year, Kansas moves closer to a lowest-common-denominator Kansas curriculum in the discount store model.
Concerns over racial diversity and equal treatment in St. Louis streets and at the University of Missouri–Columbia sent ripples nationwide. Kansas colleges and universities initiated campus discussions on diversity. And students challenged their own student government leaders at the University of Kansas.
While viewers of televised news are becoming accustomed to the warning that “some of the following scenes may be disturbing,” similar “trigger warnings” are being suggested or required in classes at some universities across the nation. This trend has not yet extended into Kansas.
This fall’s enrollment should have seen a decrease of nearly half the freshmen entering regents universities and a massive overloading of community colleges, due to a change in Qualified Admissions made four years ago. Many Kansas secondary students failed to take a fourth math class in high school, especially those aiming at careers in non-science areas. It was apparently unthinkable that the KBOR would reconsider their QA requirement. So the Provosts at Kansas universities negotiated a system where students could still enter university short this one math class and arrange to take it in college—greatly compromising the meaning of Qualified “Admissions.”
This essentially made that fourth math a “remedial” course. Back in 2012, the Kansas Legislature had prohibited regents universities from offering remedial courses, so the universities farmed their remedial courses out to community colleges. However, it only took a few years to bring them back on campus and skirt the intent of the law by partitioning state and student tuition money, and funding the on-campus remedial courses from just tuition money.
Tuition and fees continue to rise as schools receive less state support per pupil. Therefore, more money is spent in marketing and branding to recruit students. Retaining students is becoming more important than academic rigor, and some professors are under pressure to explain how they are going to lower their high rates of D/W/F students.
As vacancies occur, more schools are hiring “contingent faculty,” temporary adjuncts who provide the school “financial flexibility” but are not on site to provide students with help, advising, etc.
At the national level, a growing number of online for-profit operations collapsed as students found their online credentials going to the bottom-of-the-pile during job hunts. The U.S.D.E. closed down some fake schools and jailed some diploma mill executives who ran fraudulent operations.
In what at first appeared to be the one bright positive educational action of 2015, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) that accredits Kansas public higher education institutions announced a requirement that all courses taught for college credit had to be taught by instructors who had a masters degree and at least 18 graduate credit hours of coursework in the subject being taught. This caught many high schools off guard because many were offering dual college credits for what were really regular high school courses taught by secondary teachers with only a bachelor’s degree. Some community colleges began advertising for instructors with the higher credentials. But it was then announced that the enforcement date was not until Fall of 2017. So dual credit college courses can continue to be taught by unqualified teachers for another year-and-a-half while some Kansas superintendents openly admit that they now have time to work with their local higher education partner to “circumvent” the HLC requirement after 2017.
2015 may go down in national and state education history as the year when “gaming the system” reached new heights.