Virtual Visit: University of Kansas
The University of Kansas has one of favorite college cheers: “Rock, chalk, Jayhawk KU!” There’s a good reason for the cheer, first heard in 1887. The Lawrence campus is on a bed of limestone, aka “chalk rock.” While Kansas is considered a politically conservative state, Lawrence is as nice a college town as more liberal outposts such as Madison, Wisconsin. The area is nicknamed the Golden Valley.
I root for Jayhawks men’s basketball because Dean Smith and Roy Williams, two of my favorite college coaches, come from their nest. Bill Self, the current coach, came from Illinois, my first grad school alma mater. This season, KU was likely to be the very top seed among the field of 68 that will enter the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. The Jayhawks have won it three times, the last crown coming in 2008. They have also played in the final game six more times, the last time in 2012. They’ve had more winning seasons, 98 counting this one, than any team in D-1 college basketball. They also put on quite a pre-game show at home.
But what is the University of Kansas like as a school, outside of being one of the nation’s capitals of college basketball? How does KU “do” as a college?
Among its Big 12 rivals, KU, Iowa State and the University of Texas-Austin are the only members of the Association of American Universities. These are among the 65 most research intensive universities in the United States and Canada. Many flagship state schools aspire to be admitted to this club. But the flagships in only 25 states, including Kansas, have been welcomed in.
With just over 19,000 undergraduates, KU is smaller than most flagship state universities. The University of Delaware, about 90 minutes from home for me, has about the same number within a less populated state. But while UDel has become a more popular public option for kids from the Mid-Atlantic states, KU’s undergraduate enrollment has dropped by as many as 1,000 students since 2010. This has happened as non-residents rose of 26 to 34 percent of the undergraduate population. The University of Kansas is reaching further to get future Jayhawks. While over 1,600 undergraduates come from Missouri, the neighbor to the east. More than 400 come from the neighbors to the North (Nebraska) and West (Colorado). Over 1,000 come from Illinois, nearly 500 from Texas, over more than 400 come from Minnesota and 300 come from California.
As with most flagship state universities there’s some good news about retention and graduation rates. Since Fall, 2008 freshman retention at the University of Kansas has gone up from 78 to 86 percent for the class that arrived last year. A ten-day freshman orientation experience might be helping. The four-year graduation rate has gone up, too, from 32 percent in 2003 to 50 percent for the class that entered in 2015. The performance is better than current Big 12 rival the University of Oklahoma and former Big 12 (now Big 10) rival the University of Nebraska.
KU is test-mandatory. But the application process appears to be pretty easy. Unless you want to apply for the honors college, you can self report your grades and test scores. The university put up a paper copy of their application, in case you prefer not to apply online. They ask for a 21+ ACT/1060 SAT and 3.25+ GPA on a 4.0 scale or a 24+ ACT/1160 SAT and 3.0+GPA on a 4.0 scale. They look for only a 2.0 GPA in the college prep courses from a Kansas resident, and a 2.5 from a non-resident. There’s no need to write an essay or provide a recommendation letter. These are not high hurdles to get into a flagship state school. Ninety-two percent of the students who applied to be in last year’s freshman class got in.
Want to try for the Honors Program? You need to submit a separate application with a resume and answer one of three essay questions. You can even apply after you have been accepted to the university. Chances at honors admissions do not get much fairer than this. The latest data that I could find for honors enrollment gave a headcount of 1300 students. That’s also quite fair for a school that has 19,000 undergraduates.
In terms of costs the University of Kansas charges residents less than $12,000 in tuition and fees and asks non-residents to pay just over $28,000. The non-resident charges are around $8,000 less than New Jersey residents would be asked to pay Penn State or UDel. I can also see the draw from a student from Illinois, the state’s Big Ten neighbors charge more, too. Merit scholarships are quite generous, too. The New Jersey resident who can get into Rutgers would receive between $11,800 and $14,300 per year to become a Jayhawk. Considering room, board and transportation, it would cost about the same as the home state school.
KU has famous basketball alumni, but it has produced other prominent graduates. Alan Mullaly, the former CEO of the Ford Motor Company, is a Jayhawk. So was Robert Eaton, former CEO of Chrysler. Sheila Bair, the former Chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is a Jayhawk. So are best selling authors Gillian Flynn and Sara Paretsky and baseball stat geek Bill James.
The Jayhawk community has a nicely distributed alumni base across the US. There are more than 3,000 alumni each in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco and about that many in and around Washington DC. You’ll have no problem finding a Jayhawk watch party in any of these cities. And you will surely find one in Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis or Seattle.
The University of Kansas does fairly well with the students it attracts and educates them for a reasonable price. Rock, chalk, Jayhawk!
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Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!
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