The state constitution calls for educational institutions dedicated to the “intellectual, educational, vocational and scientific improvement” of Kansas. That’s where we derive our mission of teaching, research and service to the people of Kansas. Our work in these areas provides our state with educated graduates, life-changing research and service projects that benefit Kansas communities.
In his speech to the Kansas Board of Regents, Governor Parkinson challenged Kansas’ universities to raise their positions in the U.S. News college rankings. Now, I understand and share many of the concerns expressed regarding these rankings. There are subjective elements involved and some of the ways a university could raise its rankings may not benefit students.
But I believe the governor’s attention to greater aspirations for Kansas higher education is commendable and it presents KU with several opportunities that we should take advantage of.
When I met with him this summer we discussed the topic of graduation and retention rates, and talked about ways we could ensure more students finished their degrees. I was very pleased to receive the governor’s support for this effort, as well as his support for changing admission standards so that they give students a more realistic gauge of the rigors of college.
Refining our admission standards isn’t about having fewer students attend KU; rather it is about having more students ready to succeed when they arrive here. Standards that challenge students will also help high school teachers, counselors and administrators encourage their students to stretch in their selection of high school courses and take the most challenging curriculum their schools offer.
The Board of Regents was recently given the authority to set admission standards and I look forward to working with them to craft standards that ensure Kansas students are prepared to succeed when they arrive at KU.
Finally, Governor Parkinson clearly indicated in his speech that the University of Kansas is the state’s flagship institution, identifying KU as the university that should be given the objective of reaching the Top 50. We should strive to meet this challenge and use this opportunity to push for the commitment to higher education that will be required of the state if KU is to achieve the goals that we all have for this university.
Of course, no matter how you measure or rank it, the true excellence of an institution is determined by its faculty, staff and students. And as I complete my first month here, I am more confident than ever in the ability of our university to raise its level of excellence even higher.
Meeting these challenges will not be easy, and I am well aware it will require new resources and new ideas, but success in this endeavor will pay great dividends for our students, our state and the university.