UPDATE: MU, other public colleges, carefully recruit minorities

Monday, July 8, 2013 | 3:59 p.m. CDT; updated 9:21 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 9, 2013

KANSAS CITY — Some major public colleges in Missouri and Kansas say a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action won't affect their efforts to recruit minority students because race already is not a factor in admission standards.

However, increasing diversity on campus by recruiting more minorities remains an important goal, according to officials at MU, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.

The Supreme Court ruling in June didn't forbid considering race in admission but said schools must prove there are "no race-neutral alternatives" to achieve diversity on campus.

"I think that any public research institution that is using race as a factor in admissions needs to go back and review what they are doing," said Mel Tyler, vice chancellor of student affairs at the UMKC. "There are plenty of qualified minority students out there. Race should not be a factor."

Generally, students who meet basic criteria for admission at the schools will get in, The Kansas City Star reported.

In Kansas, the requirements are at least a 2.0 grade point average, a 21 ACT score or rank in the top third of a graduating class. In Missouri, residents who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class and meet the 17 core curriculum requirements can get in regardless of standardized test score. But the lower the class rank, the higher the test score needed for admission.

The schools generally encourage minority students to apply and then allow all applicants who meet the criteria to enroll. Changing demographics make those efforts important. By 2030, Missouri and Kansas students now considered a minority will make up 50 percent of the population, Tyler said.

Pat Bosco, vice president for student life and dean of students at Kansas State University, said the Manhattan school concentrates on recruitment, rather than selection. The university recruits students in areas with large populations of first-generation and minority students and then offers them financial assistance and academic support to help them graduate.

"K-State is an output school, not an input school," Bosco said. "We are not spending time on selection, but we are spending time showing students how they can be successful once they get here. We don't just throw them in the pond and hope they swim."

The University of Kansas also coordinates several recruitment events each year to target minority students, said office director Lisa Pinamonti Kress, and has a team of current students who write, call and meet prospective students.

At MU, admissions director Barbara Rupp said improved recruitment has led to increased minority enrollment in the past 10 years — including looking for qualified students in Kansas City, St. Louis and out of state, particularly in Chicago.

First-time black freshmen on the Columbia campus increased from 209 in 2002, or 5.6 percent of the student body, to 657 last year, more than 8 percent of the student body. The number of new Hispanic freshmen increased from 70 in 2002 to 232 in 2012.

At Kansas State, the number of minority student applicants has increased from 918 in 2007 to 1,554 in 2012. And at UMKC, enrollment of black, American Indian, Asian and Hispanic students has increased 77.5 percent increase in the last 10 years, Tyler said.

In Missouri, residents who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class and meet the 17 core curriculum requirements can get in regardless of standardized test score. But the lower the class rank, the higher the test score needed for admission.

Diversity remains important

Rupp said minority enrollment has grown over the past 10 years thanks to beefed-up recruitment efforts, including looking for qualified students in Kansas City, St. Louis and out of state, particularly in Chicago.

“We got smarter and more proactive in the state of Missouri,” Rupp said.

In addition to the increase in enrollment of African-American freshmen at MU, admission of other minority groups also increased over the years. The university admitted only 70 new Hispanic freshmen in 2002 but 232 in 2012.

Jim Rawlins, president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said the only time race might come into play when admitting students at most public schools is when a student’s academic profile falls a bit shy of the automatic acceptance criteria set at public colleges.

Schools admit a limited pool of students who don’t meet all the academic criteria but have other qualities that would make them a good addition to the student body, Rawlins said.

Academic probation helps

At the University of Missouri System’s four campuses, for instance, 10 percent of students can come in on academic probation. He said diversity might come into play when schools fill those slots.

Rupp said the system’s schools consider extenuating circumstances, like a death or divorce that might have knocked a student off track academically during their high school years.

“We look at whether a student was working a lot of hours to help the family meet ends, and many times those students are from minority groups,” Rupp said.

But Rawlins said that since the Supreme Court sidestepped a decision about affirmative action in the University of Texas case and tossed it back to the lower courts, it left a lot of room for higher-education officials to interpret varying meanings from its action.

Justices didn’t say all consideration of race in admission is wrong. For some, Rawlins said, that means “an institution that wants to use race in admissions would have to be able to withstand close scrutiny.”

What concerns Rawlins and other admission officials is that some minority students might misinterpret the court’s ruling and decide not to apply to certain schools or even attend college fairs.

“Our first challenge now is to clear up the misconceptions about admissions and get students to come to these events,” Rawlins said.

And what bothers him most is what has not been a prominent part of this discussion, he said, “that very capable minority students face horrible stigma that they got into college because of their race rather than because of their academic excellence.”

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Michael Williams July 8, 2013 | 10:01 a.m.

"In Missouri residents who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class...can get in regardless of standardized test score"

There is much discussion on these pages about the disparity in secondary some schools educate better than others.

So does the above-noted policy set up a likely-to-fail situation for MU and its students? If there is a disparity in schools, is a top-10 student at one school the same as a top-10 student at another? Couldn't a "top-10" student at one school actually be in the "bottom 50%" of another school? How does this help students if they find out they aren't as knowledgeable as their class rank would indicate?

If that happens, I'm guessin' that's a real eye-opener accompanied by a serious sinking feeling in the pit of one's stomach.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 8, 2013 | 11:57 a.m.


The "X" percent of their HS graduating class isn't endemic to Missouri. That's a case FOR standardized pre-college tests, such as ACT and SAT - not to weed out deficiently prepared students but to allow students, their parents, and their high schools (and taxpayers, if it's a public school system) to have an indication of how well a student is prepared to begin college.

I do NOT advocate use of such tests as the only criteria for college admission. NCAA Division I athletic departments will no doubt agree. :)

Articles like this remind me of an email exchange with a director of admissions at Victoria University, New Zealand. After studying their online catalog I asked whether their three-year bachelor degrees for certain majors should be considered equivalent to our four-year degrees for the same majors. "Yes," she replied, "it's because in the United States you spend their freshman year teaching students what they should have been taught in high school."

We might not like this lady's attitude, but that doesn't mean she isn't correct! Wouldn't you enjoy saving 25% of the present cost of an American undergraduate degree? Of course that might cause faculty reductions, reduced need for student housing, and a reduction in the need to borrow money (student loans). Damn! There goes our economic recovery.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams July 8, 2013 | 12:46 p.m.

Ellis: I don't know what goes on during freshman years nowadays, but I well remember 2 things about my own 1st year (fall 1967): (1) I was scared to death I just might not be prepared, and (2) NO ONE tried to reteach high school to me....I was inundated with new stuff. Professor EXPECTED that I (and everyone else) was ready.

NO public college should be reteaching HS. There should be NO remedial courses. State legislatures should REFUSE or REDUCE money to colleges/universities doing such a thing. Higher education is called "higher education" for a reason, and that reason does not include retraining poor HS students. You are supposed to be an adult when you go to college, and it's parents' job to make sure that secondary students know what is expected when they DO become adults.

I wrote the other day about "negative consequences." For me, I passed my parents' education sometime in the 9th grade. After that, it was up to me, my teachers, and a great peer group (that studied together). But even though my parents could not check my homework, they surely could read the grades on my grade card. Fact is, I got into HEAPS more trouble with a bad grade on "effort" or...horrors...."conduct" than any academic grade. There were consequences to all aspects of my being a student...both good and bad...and while my parents praised me for the good ones, they did NOT bail me out of the bad ones. Hence, my decision risk assessment...for "What if I do this?" was always balanced and not skewed towards neutral or the good side by having the risk of a bad outcome reduced.

Same thing college.

I do not subscribe to the belief that college is a "right".

TRYING to get to college IS, however, a right.....sumpin' about "pursuing happiness" written down somewhere I forgit.

PS: I note in the "other" newspaper there are folks (and consumers) at the local farmer's markets concerned that some produce is not "local". Duh. Took 'em long enuf to find out. We talked about this herein quite some time ago. Nuttin' from the Missourian, tho. Guess they didn't want to believe it.......

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 8, 2013 | 2:31 p.m.


1967? At 1950 orientation, incoming freshman were required to take a long exam. Since we had already been accepted for enrollment our test results were for "administrative purposes only." We were told most of us would not complete all questions in the time alloted, but not to worry. The test was multiple choice and covered English, mathematics, the sciences, literature, history, etc.
We now know that we - at universities and colleges accross the country - were guinea pigs for the ACT and SAT. The exercise apparently lasted several years.

When the tests became official - and important - their averages DROPPED ANNUALLY for years before stabilizing. Why? We weren't brilliant (well, not most of us).

I agree that remedial courses have no place in a public university. A good junior college can handle them.

Calculus and chemistry (1950s) were difficult; freshman English was a joke, but helpful to boost GPA.

PS: In New Zealand, physics, chemistry, biology/pre-med, and techology majors in general are four-year programs. After all, it is virtually impossuble to condense sequenced laboratory courses from eight to six semesters.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams July 8, 2013 | 3:02 p.m.


Geez, I thought I wuz old................

Your ancient testing might have been the original precursor to ACT and SAT, but my Iowa Tests of Basic Skills was the beta-version.......

BTW, how hard wuz it to chisel your answers into stone tablets? Personally, I had trouble with filling in all those circles with my quill pen. I could, however, sharpen it satisfactorily since you could carry pocket knives (horrors) then.


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 8, 2013 | 6:01 p.m.


There is, or was, the Iowa Silent Reading Test, which supposedly measures reading speed and comprehension. It may have gone back as far as the 1920s (even I am not that old).

The testee (is that a vaild word?) was required to read an essay on a subject as rapidly as possible and then signal when he/she was done. The time was recorded.

Then the testee had to answer a set of questions regarding the subject, without being allowed to reference the essay. This represented "comprehension." I was given the test at Fort Belvoir, Virginia in 1955.

The essay concerned the properties and manufacture of commercial glass. I just skimmed over it and raised my hand. Then I aced the questions. Any Ceramic Engineer could have done as well. But had the subject been different...

(Report Comment)
Arch Brooks July 9, 2013 | 7:53 a.m.

MU (system wide) continues to be one of the most racist institutions of higher learning west of the Mississippi river.

It is absolutely ridiculous that MU continues the farce of supposedly caring when MU's action clearly mandates black people do not matter to MU (since Lloyd Gaines efforts).

The time is long overdue that MU be held accountable for the decades of violations of the Constitution specifically Title VII and return every dollar of federal funding when they have lied about their role in achieving parity in higher education.

Before MU makes any claims about education anyone's children MU should educate itself.

Again the joke is on the Missouri taxpayers!

(Report Comment)

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