Posts tagged with Kansas University

KU officials say they’re concerned about declining enrollment; fewer students on campus this fall

Kansas University officials, concerned by another decrease in enrollment, said Tuesday they’re taking steps to reverse the trend.

Fall enrollment dropped 744 students, to 28,718, according to figures released by the Kansas Board of Regents on Tuesday.

The 2.5 percent drop continues a recent trend of enrollment drop-offs at the university, after enrollment increased to a record 30,102 in 2008.

The figures include numbers for both KU’s Lawrence and Edwards campuses, as well as at KU Medical Center.

“They tell me we’ve got work to do,” said Matt Melvin, KU’s vice provost for enrollment management, looking at the numbers. Some of the decline, he said, was anticipated as KU’s freshmen classes in 2009 and 2010 dropped off from previous years.

Melvin said he was pleased with the academic success and the diversity of KU’s incoming freshmen this year.

“We’re very strong in quality, very strong in diversity,” Melvin said. “We need the trifecta. We need the quantity.”

Enrollment is increasing at KU Medical Center, which reported a 2.3 percent increase. And students were taking more credit hours at KU’s Edwards Campus in Overland Park. But they were offset by declines on KU’s Lawrence campus. KU doesn’t separate the head count for the KU and Edwards campuses, and taken together, the enrollment on those campuses fell 3.1 percent to 25,448.

KU officials announced they were taking steps to address the issue.

“For KU to achieve its mission of educating leaders, we need to reverse this decline,” KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said in a prepared statement. “That’s why recruitment and retention are areas of specific emphasis in our strategic plan. And it’s why we have already undertaken initiatives to increase the number of students who come to KU ready to succeed.”

The university unveiled a new package of renewable scholarships that shows potential students how much aid they qualify for up-front, based on high school grades and standardized test scores.

Melvin said KU would be personalizing and customizing its recruitment processes more and would work to establish a pipeline to reach students and parents earlier in their careers.

A few other specific areas of students saw declines. KU enrolled only 85 new international freshmen this fall, down from 222 international students last year. Melvin said competition for international students is increasing, key KU international pipelines in China and South Korea are producing fewer overall students and KU recently added a new requirement that international students pass the TOEFL English speech and comprehension exam before they can enroll. That’s a requirement many of its competitors don’t have, Melvin said. The drop in international freshmen contributed heavily to an overall decline in the freshman class to 3,580 students.

Also, fewer students on campus are seeking master’s degrees, down 5 percent to 3,189. Many master’s degree students are seeking alternative ways to get their degree, including online degree programs and late-night classes, he said. KU has a new center looking into the university's distance course offerings.

KU and Emporia State University were the only two of the six state universities in Kansas to report drops in enrollment. ESU saw the biggest percentage decline, dropping 4.6 percent.

Kansas State University reported a 1.2 percent increase, adding 275 students, to an overall enrollment of 23,863.

Nearby Johnson County Community College also reported a slight increase of students, adding 164 students, or a 0.8 percent increase, taking its fall enrollment to 21,033 students.

By Andy Hyland


Kansas officials like keeping Big 12 intact

With the Big 12 realignment storm apparently subsiding, higher education officials in Kansas on Wednesday looked like folks climbing out of a cellar -- relieved and happy, but wary of the possibility of more bad weather.

"We're glad the Big 12 is staying together and that KU and K-State stay together," said Board of Regents Chairman Ed McKechnie.

Texas A&M's intention to leave for the Southeastern Conference led to weeks of speculation that Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State were going to join the Pac-12.

But the Pac-12 announced late Tuesday it would stay at 12 members. And Texas started making sounds that it was willing to share some TV revenue with other conference members, although none from its new Longhorn Network deal with ESPN.

During the realignment-rumor drama, Gov. Sam Brownback, McKechnie and university officials all publicly stated they wanted the remaining Big 12 schools to stay together, and for KU and KSU to stay together in the league.

And that's how it has apparently turned out, at least for the near term. "That is ideal for us," said KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

She said staying in the Big 12 was important because being in a less prominent league may have reduced KU's visibility to some potential students.

Resolution of the issue, McKechnie said, "let's us focus back on academics. I feel better today than I have in five weeks."

The regents went into a 30-minute closed session with Gray-Little, KU Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger, their counterparts at K-State, and attorneys from the two schools.

McKechnie said the schools are reviewing their contracts with the Big 12 but he wouldn't elaborate any further. He also wouldn't comment on whether Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe should keep his job. "I want people who solve problems," he said.

He said the Big 12 schools need to increase their commitments to each other, especially in building academic ties.

He noted no Big 10 school thought about leaving that conference. "That's what we need to get the Big 12 schools to be," he said.

"I realize that in this conversation, football is king, basketball matters, but most importantly what matters is the academics," he said.

And, he said, it wasn't a fight that KU or K-State wanted.

"The people who all were fighting are the people who have the revenue. The people who don't have the revenue weren't fighting," he said.

Libby Johnson, president of the KU student body, said the developments concerning the Big 12 have been a major topic of discussion.

"The student body is definitely concerned about it and paying attention," Johnson said.

Johnson said she hoped KU stayed in the Big 12. "The Big 12 has served KU students well," she said.

By Scott Rothschild


Kansas Board of Regents to discuss future of Big 12

State higher education officials will meet in closed session on Thursday to review what is going on with the Big 12.

Kansas Board of Regents Chairman Ed McKechnie of Arcadia said Monday that he wanted to make sure board members were up to speed on all the talk about conference realignment.

Officials with Kansas University and Kansas State University will be included in the meeting, McKechnie said. The board is holding its regularly scheduled monthly meeting Wednesday and Thursday and will go into executive session at noon Thursday for the Big 12 discussion.

The Southeastern Conference has voted to accept Texas A&M and Missouri has reportedly been looking to go there too. Oklahoma and Texas are considering whether to go to the Pac-12, and if they did Oklahoma State and Texas Tech might land there too.

Reports have indicated that officials with the Big East and Big 12 are discussing a possible merger if Big 12 teams start leaving.

McKechnie said whatever happens he wants KU and KSU to be in the same conference, and hopefully that conference will be the Big 12.

"I believe the Big 12 has more to offer than some folks are giving it credit for," he said.

McKechnie said he has spent a lot of time over the past few weeks talking with higher education officials with other Big 12 institutions.

"There are as many scenarios out there as there are people to talk to," he said.

By Scott Rothschild


KU announces new 5-year university plan called ‘Bold Aspirations’

Speaking to a crowd of university community members Wednesday, Kansas University officials unveiled their new strategic plan, “Bold Aspirations,” which will seek to chart a path for KU to follow during the next five years.

Some parts of the plan are already in place. KU has created a new associate vice chancellor position to oversee entrepreneurship. KU leaders hope a freshly revamped scholarship plan that’s in place for next fall will attract more freshmen to the university.

And more changes are coming. KU will seek to institute an online system that tracks all of a professor’s professional activity in an attempt to better follow research activity on campus. The system would also be used to help implement a policy of post-tenure review.

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the plan would be paired with an ongoing efficiency and effectiveness review, “Changing for Excellence.” That plan could help provide funds for the efforts outlined in the strategic plan.

“These are the two components that will help us to reach our goals,” she said, noting that the university was just beginning to implement some of the recommendations. “The best is yet to come.”

The plan charts a path to meet some of her initial goals for the university, including raising graduation and retention rates and increasing the scholarly research profile of the university.

Along with the plan come four new “strategic initiative” themes that will encourage faculty members to address some of the world’s great challenges in their research, said Jeff Vitter, KU’s provost and executive vice chancellor.

The themes are: “Sustaining the Planet, Powering the World,” “Promoting Well-Being, Finding Cures,” “Building Communities, Expanding Opportunities” and “Harnessing Information, Multiplying Knowledge.”

The university will host four research summits on each initiative in the coming months and will seek to invest new dollars into the efforts. In addition to the savings realized from the efficiency plan, the university will also seek some state money to pay for some of the efforts.

KU intends to ask the Kansas Board of Regents to support a state funding request for $3 million to hire 12 senior “foundation” professors — three in each of the four strategic initiative areas.

That move, along with others in the plan, would help KU maintain its status in the Association of American Universities, a prestigious group of the nation’s top research universities, Vitter said.

Some aspects of the plan call for private funding through the university’s ongoing fundraising campaign. A goal that would seek to elevate doctoral education around the campus specifically calls for fundraising through private donations.

Vitter said the plan was a product of a large amount of work from people throughout the university.

“This is an exciting time for us,” he said. “We’re all eager to get going.”

By Andy Hyland


KU listed at 46th among public universities in U.S. News and World Report rankings

Kansas University slightly increased its ranking in the U.S. News and World Report college rankings released today, both overall and among public schools.

KU is in a tie for 46th among public schools, in a tie with Florida State University, North Carolina State University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Oregon and the University of Tennessee. The schools ranked in a tie for 101st when both public and private schools were included, up from KU’s 104th overall ranking last year.

Two private schools, the University of Dayton and the University of the Pacific, both also received the same overall score as KU.

Jeff Vitter, KU’s provost and executive vice chancellor, said he was glad to see that KU moved up on the list, particularly given that the overall pool was a little bit larger this year.

In recent years, KU has been ranked as high as 30th among public schools in 1999 and as low as 47th last year.

“The reality is that students, their families and others look to the rankings to get a sense of where universities stand,” Vitter said. “It’s always good to go up rather than down.”

Still, he said the university was looking to further improve its standing.

The university’s strategic plan, which will soon be publicly unveiled, will seek to improve KU in several areas that would improve its ranking, too, like retention and graduation rates.

“Quite frankly, one thing that jumps out in these rankings is our acceptance rate,” Vitter said.

He pointed out that KU was the only university among the overall top 140 schools that had an acceptance rate of higher than 90 percent (KU’s is 93 percent).

The Kansas Board of Regents has given its blessing for state universities to propose their own requirements, and Vitter said the school would work with state leaders to determine what role KU should serve in this area, and if it should propose higher admission standards.

“It makes sense for KU as the flagship institution to play a special role,” Vitter said.

By Andy Hyland


Big 12’s future cloudy, with a chance

For at least a few hours Wednesday, Baylor University felt what it was like to be king of the conference.

Less than 12 hours after learning that Texas A&M had received enough support from the SEC to leave the Big 12, Baylor spearheaded a strong campaign among the nine remaining Big 12 schools to block the Aggies’ exit. According to reports, only Oklahoma, which has expressed interest in bolting for the Pac-12, was willing to waive its right to take legal action against the SEC for poaching A&M. Initially, it looked as if Baylor would represent the Aggies’ only roadblock to freedom, but, as the day went on, the movement garnered more support. First, Iowa State came out in full support of a lawsuit should A&M leave. A little while later, many were reporting that the rest of the league had followed suit. That included Kansas University, which, through a statement from Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little’s office, stood firmly in Baylor and Iowa State’s corner, though in a more neutral tone.

“We are not planning litigation,” the statement said. “But we have not waived our legal rights in this matter.”

Sources close to Kansas said throughout the day that Gray-Little and athletic director Sheahon Zenger remained steadfast in their belief that the Big 12 was the best place for KU to end up. Still, it’s clear that KU’s leaders are considering all of their options.

When Wednesday began, it seemed as if the Big 12 was closer than ever to becoming extinct. A letter from Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe to SEC boss Mike Slive, dated Sept. 2, that surfaced early Wednesday, revealed that Beebe, on behalf of the Big 12, had signed off on A&M’s move to the SEC. However, once the rest of the league began its attempt to block the move, another Beebe letter surfaced, this one an email sent to Slive late Tuesday, that essentially said Beebe’s previous letter only spoke for the league and not the individual members. Although that seemed to be splitting hairs, the difference had enough weight to delay A&M’s move and sent Aggies officials into a frenzy.

“We are being held hostage right now,” A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said of being forced to stay in the Big 12. “Essentially, we’re being told that you must stay here against your will, and we think that really flies in the face of what makes us Americans and makes us free people.”

Baylor officials also made claims earlier in the day that they believed the Bears were being held hostage.

An official move by A&M to the SEC, which still may come and could be announced as soon as today, likely would’ve sent the dominoes tumbling and signified the beginning of the end of the Big 12. In the race to keep up with the constantly changing landscape, schools like Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri would have faced decisions that could’ve buried the Big 12. Now, A&M’s future appears to be as unsettled as the Big 12’s, and the 15-year old league is clinging to hope.

As Texas, which seems to have put the controversial Longhorn Network on the back burner for now, continues to fight for the Big 12, all eyes shift to Oklahoma, which, sources say, is divided on whether to move to the Pac-12 or stick with the Big 12.

If the Big 12 survives, it seems that talk would turn quickly to which schools the conference would explore adding in an effort to get back to 10 or even 12 schools. Arkansas AD Jeff Long told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the Big 12 recently contacted the SEC school about expansion but added that the talks did not get very far. One league source said that BYU now stands as the Big 12’s first choice.

By Matt Tait


Anonymous donor gives $1 million to establish the Barbara F. Atkinson Professorship at KU Medical Center

An anonymous donor has given $1 million to support a professorship at Kansas University Medical Center in honor of KUMC’s executive vice chancellor and dean of its School of Medicine.

The gift will establish the Barbara F. Atkinson Professorship in pathology and laboratory medicine.

The professorship will be in the field of cytopathology, a branch of pathology that studies and diagnoses disease at the cellular level.

“This provides the resources for the department to go into the national marketplace and recruit an outstanding faculty member,” said Dale Seuferling, president and CEO of KU Endowment.

The department could also opt to award the professorship to a current member of the department, and use it as a retention tool, he said.

“The naming of the professorship for Dr. Atkinson is a fitting tribute to her many years of service at the medical center and her vision for creating a world-class cancer center,” said KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little in a written statement.

The pathology department at KUMC also received a million-dollar donation through a bequest last year.

Atkinson, in the statement, called the recognition “the biggest honor of my career.”

“Although the last decade of my professional life has been devoted primarily to administration at the medical center, in my heart, I will always be a pathologist,” she said. “I am so proud of the outstanding work being done by the doctors and scientists every day in our Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, especially in the area of cytopathology, which is my specialty.”

Seuferling said the endowed professorship would include a salary component that could be bolstered by things like research assistance and funds for graduate assistants as well.

By Andy Hyland


Kansas University changing scholarship offerings for incoming freshman

Kansas University will dramatically change the way it offers scholarships to incoming freshmen, putting more of a focus on four-year renewable scholarships and letting students know upfront what level of aid they can expect based on their high school GPA and standardized test scores.

The new scholarships, KU leaders say, are designed to attract new students to KU.

“It’s a good program. It’s where we want to go,” said KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “We want to use our funding to pool more of it so that it not only helps the students, but also helps us in terms of who we want to recruit.”

The effort matches her goals to not just recruit high-quality students, but to retain them, too, because the scholarships are available for four years only, she said.

“Graduating in four years becomes more important,” she said.

To put more scholarship money in renewable scholarships available for freshmen, KU realigned some of its existing funds to front-load more scholarship money.

Lisa Pinamonti Kress, KU’s director of admissions, said a number of elements will help her recruit students. Recruits are frequently asking her how much scholarship money is available and how much of it is renewable.

“With the state of the economy, we’ve definitely heard that students and parents would like to know what it costs for the entire four years,” she said.

The new scholarships, paired with KU’s four-year guaranteed tuition compact, allow them to do that, she said.

Now, if students know their high school GPA and their standardized test scores, they’ll know how much money they’ll get, and they’ll get a letter within two weeks of being admitted, she said.

The deadline to be considered for scholarships has been moved up slightly, to Nov. 1 from Dec. 1, she said. And gone are those scholarship essays that students had to write in the past, Kress said, along with a resume-like form that listed all the extracurricular activities a student had participated in.

Before the change, KU had four-year renewable scholarships, but they were mostly reserved for the highest-achieving students, she said. Today, most of KU’s scholarships are one-time awards with an average of about $1,000 or $1,500, she said. Funds that supported those scholarships will be redirected to the new renewable scholarships, she said.

Those “signing bonuses” didn’t align with KU’s desire to link recruitment with retention of students, said Matt Melvin, KU’s associate vice provost for recruitment and enrollment.

To secure other funding for the new program, Melvin said KU made a number of other changes to its existing scholarships. A scholarship for perfect ACT scores was eliminated. The criteria to renew the scholarships were strengthened, with the KU GPA requirement moving from 3.25 to 3.4. And KU worked with schools and departments to use funds that had been reserved for awards for upperclassmen.

Some of the out-of-state awards will be financed using tuition waivers.

He said KU would also be offering assistance to low-income families that qualify for federal Pell Grants. If Kansas students meet minimum academic standards, KU would use a combination of grants and scholarships to provide payment for full tuition and fees for four years for those students, he said. They would also have to meet academic standards each year to keep the scholarship.

“It’s going to ensure not only that the best and brightest are going to come to KU; it’s going to ensure that that best and brightest are going to come to KU regardless of their ability to pay,” Melvin said.

KU officials plan to launch an affordability website for prospective students soon.

Dale Seuferling, president and CEO of the KU Endowment Association, said mostly existing funds were being used to support the new scholarships. For example, two of KU’s existing renewable scholarships, the Summerfield and Watkins-Berger scholarships, would no longer exist moving forward.

But the funds that support them would still be used to provide money for the highest-level renewable award given to Kansas residents, he said. And students will still receive a letter that informs them which donor was responsible for their scholarship.

And as KU continues with its comprehensive fundraising campaign, now in the silent stage, acquiring new funds for scholarships will remain a priority, he said. The new scholarships will allow them to show donors the emphasis KU is placing on renewable scholarships.

“It really provides, I think, a much more efficient and marketable program that will be better understood by parents and the students,” he said.

New scholarships for incoming freshman: Kansas University is offering several new renewable scholarships for freshmen entering in the fall of 2012. The freshmen will be able to look at a grid and tell what level of scholarship they qualify for.

Kansas Resident Renewable Scholarships

National Merit Finalist, National Achievement Finalist, National Hispanic: Scholar Must select KU as No. 1 college choice with National Merit

Scholarship Corp.; $40,000 ($10,000 per year); 30 KU hours + 3.4 GPA

Chancellor 32 ACT/1400 SAT, 3.85 GPA; $20,000 ($5,000 per year); 30 KU hours + 3.4 GPA

Traditions 31 ACT/1360 SAT, 3.75 GPA; $16,000 ($4,000 per year); 30 KU hours + 3.4 GPA

Crimson & Blue 28 ACT/1250 SAT, 3.5 GPA; $8,000 ($2,000 per year); 30 KU hours + 3.4 GPA

Rock Chalk 25 ACT/1130 SAT, 3.5 GPA; $4,000 ($1,000 per year); 30 KU hours + 3.4 GPA

Jayhawk 24 ACT/1090 SAT, 3.75 GPA; $4,000 ($1,000 per year); 30 KU hours + 3.4 GPA

KU Pell Advantage (for students who qualify to receive a Pell Grant) 22 ACT/1020 SAT, 3.25 GPA; Combination of scholarships and grants will fund all tuition and fees; 24 KU hours + 2.5 GPA

Nonresident Renewable Scholarships

National Merit Finalist, National Achievement Finalist, National Hispanic Scholar: Must select KU as No. 1 college choice with National Merit Scholarship Corp.; $40,000 ($10,000 per year); 30 KU hours + 3.4 GPA

Midwest Student Exchange Program* 24 ACT/1090 SAT, 3.25 GPA; $37,200 ($9,300 per year); 30 KU hours + 3.4 GPA

KU Excellence 28 ACT/1250 SAT, 3.5 GPA; $37,200 ($9,300 per year); 30 KU hours + 3.4 GPA

KU Distinction 25 ACT/1130 SAT, 3.5 GPA; $12,000 ($3,000 per year); 30 KU hours + 3.4 GPA

KU Achievement 24 ACT/1090 SAT, 3.75 GPA; $8,000 ($2,000 per year); 30 KU hours + 3.4 GPA

*Available for students living in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota or Wisconsin.

Jayhawk Generations Scholarships Available for students who have a parent, step-parent, grandparent, step-grandparent or legal guardian who graduated from KU.

28 ACT/1250 SAT, 3.5 GPA; $37,200 ($9,300 per year); 30 KU hours + 3.4 GPA

26-27 ACT/1170-1240 SAT, 3.5 GPA; $17,200 ($4,300 per year); 30 KU hours + 3.4 GPA

24-25 ACT/1090-1160 SAT, 3.5 GPA; $10,320 ($2,580 per year); 30 KU hours + 3.4 GPA

By Andy Hyland


KU considering — but won’t be revealing — 40 possible efficiency adjustments worth

An efficiency and effectiveness study at Kansas University is continuing to progress, but university officials aren’t saying much — at least for now — about how they will achieve those new efficiencies.

Huron Consulting Group is conducting the study, and is being paid with a contract for up to $2.28 million, using private dollars, if all of its initiatives are implemented.

The consulting group has already presented a list of about 40 options to KU, and an executive committee will pare that list to about eight to 10 “business cases,” which will be examined further.

KU officials said that while they would be releasing the list of about 10 areas they will examine further, they will not divulging the 40 or so initial options that Huron provided.

Jack Martin, a KU spokesman, said the university didn’t want to cause “unnecessary anxiety” by having people see a list of areas that were only suggested for review.

The same question came up at a town hall meeting on the consulting plan this week. An audience member asked if the list of about 40 initial items would be made public.

Jeff Vitter, KU’s provost, said university officials had no plans to do that.

“If something is put forward that we don’t really intend to pursue, especially if it’s somewhat problematic in really not fitting in with KU, it could cause all kinds of alarms, and get people concerned about something that is never going to happen anyway,” Vitter said.

Still, a few of the kinds of things KU is looking at are known. One audience member at the town hall identified herself as a student housing employee.

“We have heard that there is a consideration of us being absorbed by Facilities, and I was wondering how that would benefit me as an employee of student housing,” she said. “Our focus is on our students, and maintaining that they have good housing and they get the services that they need.”

John Curry, a managing director for Huron, confirmed that they had looked at that as an option.

“It’s not a foregone conclusion at all,” he said. “But it’s something that we will be thinking about today and maybe thinking about further.”

A facilities employee asked if there were plans for reductions in KU’s workforce. Diane Goddard, KU’s vice provost for administration and finance, said the university didn’t go into the process with the goal of fewer staff.

“Our hope is that if there are reductions in workforce, that those will be achieved either through attrition, or they will be achieved by retooling people and giving people the opportunity to learn new skills, and to step into new roles,” Goddard said.

Vitter said KU could be releasing more information on the 10 or so areas of focus within the next two weeks.

By Andy Hyland


Hospital, university leaders to revisit affiliation: Talks expected to go more smoothly than 2007 negotiations

Kansas University Hospital, KU Medical Center and KU Physicians are preparing to begin negotiations on a new affiliation agreement, a process that hospital and university leaders say should go much more smoothly than the last time.

The groups’ first affiliation discussions became bitter and contentious at times over issues such as how other hospitals in Kansas City would be able to use the “KU Cancer Center” brand.

KU Hospital provides clinical services and patient care and is affiliated with KU Medical Center, which provides research and education for physicians, nurses and allied health professionals. KU Physicians is the group of doctors that practice at KU Hospital and belong to the KUMC faculty.

After the groups’ last negotiations in late 2007, the parties had agreed on a number of issues. For example, they agreed that the amount of money paid by the hospital to KUMC and KU Physicians would increase from $31 million per year to $46 million per year.

The parties have some time before the current agreement expires on Sept. 30, 2012. The sides will likely begin meeting later this year, said Bob Page, CEO of KU Hospital.

Hospital leaders, fresh off a newly minted merger with the Kansas City Cancer Center, haven’t had much time yet to devote to thinking about what kinds of issues might arise in the new negotiations.

“It’s a good question,” Page said. “I don’t know yet.”

He said that given the existing good relationship between KUMC and the hospital, he didn’t expect discussions to be contentious this time around.

Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of KUMC, agreed.

“We’ve worked with this partnership, and as you can see, we’ve made huge progress,” she said. “We now have a track record of really working together, which didn’t exist before.”

By Andy Hyland