The Kansas Board of Regents unanimously voted Wednesday to modify qualified admissions standards for public university students by ending a mandate that applicants complete a pre-college curriculum and by turning to high school grade-point average rather than class rank when weighing prospects.
The new system would create distinct admissions paths for people seeking to enroll at the University of Kansas and Kansas State University, but unify the approach at Wichita State University, Fort Hays State University, Emporia State University and Pittsburg State University.
The objective is to embrace reform capable of encouraging a higher level of college attendance by first-generation, minority and rural students.
"One of the stumbling blocks for these high school kids was to get all the courses that they've taken into that application. I think it definitely simplifies things from that perspective," said Dodge City resident Shane Bangerter, who is chairman of the Board of Regents and an appointee of former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.
"I love the changes," said Jon Rolph, a Wichita board member appointed by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.
The overhaul has been two years in the making and reflected a desire among members of the higher education governance panel to simplify the application process for students and parents as well as drop the administratively cumbersome reality of manually calculating whether applicants achieved the minimum 2.0 GPA on a set of high school English, math and science courses.
From now on, that list of classes will be recommended by the Board of Regents instead of a requirement embedded in admissions limitations initially imposed nearly 20 years ago.
"We will still be promoting that pathway," said Blake Flanders, president and CEO of the Board of Regents. "It's just been almost impossible to monitor every course that a student takes because it is a process you can't automate."
It is possible the Kansas State Board of Education could pick up the course-list thread and put muscle behind a campaign to convince students to continue taking rigorous high school courses. The topic could arise Thursday during a joint meeting of the K-12 and university boards in Topeka.
All applicants to the six universities — the standards don't apply to Washburn University in Topeka — would still be expected to attain a 2.0 GPA on college-level classes, and the ACT would remain a featured component of the application process.
Under the new arrangement, a student applying to Emporia State, Fort Hays State, Pittsburg State or Wichita State could gain admission by scoring at least 21 on the ACT or achieve a minimum 2.25 GPA in high school. At K-State, the same 21 score on the ACT would be applied, but the GPA benchmark would be 3.25. Applicants to KU would be expected to advance in the process with a 21 ACT score and 3.25 GPA or a 24 ACT score and 3.0 GPA.