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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Great Western Kentucky (WKU) News: School To Raise Admission Standards.

WKU to raise admission standards and accept fewer students

Fewer, but more qualified students may be making there way to WKU in the future as the Board of Regents discuss a change in focus for the university today at a board retreat at the WKU Glasgow campus.
 
Regents will be meeting with a state demographer at the retreat, who will help to provide key information to the university and its plan to change the course of growth development in the future.


President Gary Ransdell said the demographer will show that the pool of Kentucky high school students is not growing, and that the university will soon see a “paradigm shift” in its focus by raising admission standards and lowering student enrollment.
“As our university has grown dramatically over the past 15 years, we have penetrated that market pretty well,” Ransdell said. “In my opinion, we can no longer look to Kentucky students as a growth strategy.”

Ransdell said it’s time instead for the university to focus on the quality of students and retention rates.
“We are going to continue to raise our admission standards and accept fewer students,” Ransdell said. “Our strategy going forward is likely to be shaped around a slightly smaller student population.
Rather than aggressive growth, we’re going to focus on retention, graduation rates and higher academic standards.”

Targeting student populations where retention is needed is a center focus moving forward according to Joelle Carter, assistant vice president for Retention and Student Services.
“We look at retention across the board,” Carter said. “There are certain student groups where retention is more of an issue. We can look at those gaps and develop programs to help retention in that regard moving forward.”

Retention is a moving factor in this shift. Ransdell said the university must do better than a 75 percent retention rate for freshmen and sophomores. Actions towards implementing higher standards have already taken place. Ransdell said the university accepted 500 less students for the 2013-14 academic year than last year.

“We’ve put higher admission standards into play over the last couple of years and this is the first year we’re beginning to see a pay off on that,” Ransdell said.
Provost Gordon Emslie said even though admissions requirements have become more challenging, more opportunities for students have unfolded as well.
“With the state focus on retention and graduation rates we felt it appropriate to apply a different admission criteria,” Emslie said. “We’ve also added a significant number of new scholarships bringing the ACT and GPA range down. So we have more limited and partial tuition scholarships available to students who are fairly solid students, but were just not competitive for other scholarships in the past.”

Ransdell said a major part of the reasoning is because the university must control its own future financially rather than being dependent on Kentucky general assembly, which is facing financial challenges. WKU and education overall is only one of the many areas that receive funds from the state.

“While I believe we’ve reached an end to the budget cutting process for the foreseeable future, I am not optimistic that the general assembly will resume a significant level of new state funding,” Ransdell said. “We’re coming to the conclusion that state funding to support growing enrollment is not going to be forthcoming. Therefore, what we have to do as an institution is to ensure strong quality and strong financial underpinning.”

This shift in the university philosophy will be a highlighted topic with the regents Thursday. Ransdell said this process will take a lot of time and thought from the regents.
“These are all matters that we’re contemplating,” Ransdell said. “There is not a strategy manual in place. We’re studying all these dimensions and will discuss it with the board.”

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