February 13, 2016

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Mission incomplete at Kentucky State University

Published 1:30 pm Thursday, January 9, 2014

SheNique Jackson left Kentucky State University after just one semester. She told reporter Ryan Quinn she felt the university was disorganized and stated she received little counseling from advisers.

Unfortunately, she is not alone.

According to statistics Quinn gathered for his story in Sunday’s State Journal, Kentucky State is doing a dismal job of graduating students both in four years and the more preferred method of evaluating those rates using a six-year timeframe.

We were also struck by another thing Jackson said.

“K-State’s degree is basically the same as a community college degree,” she said.

If that is the case, then perhaps state officials should consider making Kentucky State a part of the commonwealth’s community college system.

Because right now, the state is spending a lot of taxpayer dollars on a school that is not fulfilling its mission, nor retaining and graduating enough of its students.

Just 10 years ago, KSU had a 6-year graduation rate of 41 percent. Now, that figure has plummeted to 14 percent.

Kentucky State is one of about 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities, defined as schools established before 1964 “whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans.”

KSU is still viewed as a university for black students, but in fact only about half (53 percent) of its students today are black while 22 percent are white.

When looking at KSU in comparison to the other Kentucky colleges, its graduation rate is far lower than any other public institution of higher learning, the next lowest being Northern Kentucky University at 37 percent.

In a ranking of the 85 HBCUs comparable to Kentucky State, the school ranks 78th in terms of 6-year graduation rates.

These figures should be acceptable to no one.

University officials are quick to tick off a variety of reasons for their failures, one being that they accept many students with inferior academic credentials compared to Kentucky’s other universities.

About 85 percent of entering freshman at Kentucky State need at least one developmental education course, and, said university president Mary Sias, more than a third need two or three such classes.

Obviously this is an admissions problem, and university officials said that while recent incoming classes had an average ACT score of 19 and high school GPA of 2.43, the class that enrolled last fall had an average ACT of 21 and GPA of 2.68.

This is encouraging because we are not about to suggest KSU should have been “dumbing down” its curriculum. It should have all along been working to attract bright, motivated, hard-working students.

The university has been approved to begin a doctoral program in nursing, which we think will be a fantastic addition to the degrees it offers.

But we also think state officials should closely monitor Kentucky State because its mission of years ago does not appear to be its mission of today.

Foremost, its mission needs to be clearly defined. But whatever that mission may be, surely retaining and graduating students must be a vital component.

As we see it, Kentucky State is not currently doing a good job in that regard.