LAWRENCE — A recent Kansas Board of Regents policy change on a systemwide general education program has raised questions about its impact and implementation at the University of Kansas.
At its June meeting, the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) adopted a systemwide general education program across the six state universities and 19 community colleges. The framework includes 34-35 credit hours drawn from seven disciplines – English, communications, mathematics and statistics, natural and physical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, arts and humanities, and an institutionally designated area. Under the program, a student who completes their general education at a public Kansas community college or university will receive a note of completion on their transcript and will not be required to re-take any general education requirements at any other Kansas public institution to which they transfer.
Regents see implementation of such a package as beneficial to reducing student cost of attendance and promoting seamless transfer among Kansas public institutions. KBOR also noted Kansas was the only state in the Midwest without a common general education package.
In advance of the policy decision, the Regents formed a working group of representatives from KBOR institutions to review general education models from other states, to gather input from institutional representatives and to agree upon a general education framework for the state of Kansas.
The Regents appointed Provost Barbara A. Bichelmeyer as co-chair of the KBOR working group. To assure KU interests were properly represented, she assembled a KU-based advisory group with representatives from the University Core Curriculum Committee; Faculty Senate; Academic Success; the Undergraduate Advising Center; Analytics, Institutional Research & Effectiveness; Admissions; the Office of University Registrar; the Provost Office; the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences; and the schools of Nursing, Engineering and Professional Studies. This body provided crucial guidance throughout the endeavor.
KU and other institutions successfully advocated for changes in early versions of the statewide general education curriculum proposal. The changes adopted by the Regents created better alignment of the new general education program with the current KU Core. The revisions also ensure that KU will continue to provide a diverse and rigorous experience that aligns with KU’s institutional values. Further, KU and other institutions advocated to have an additional year to implement review and potential changes needed to ensure alignment with the KBOR general education framework, which will now go into effect in fall 2024.
Each institution in the Regents system, including KU, will now begin to align its respective general education programs (in KU’s case, the KU Core) with the KBOR general education framework.
KU worked to preserve as many aspects of the KU Core as possible and to ensure as little disruption to accredited and highly prescribed degree plans. No new processes will be needed to recertify courses in the KU Core in order to align with the statewide framework. Instructors and departments will be able to follow the established course recertification processes associated with the KU Core. Rather, KU’s work will be to demonstrate how the KU Core aligns with the new Kansas statewide general education framework.
Probable timeline for alignment
During the 2022-2023 academic year, KU will work to align the KU Core, which uses a learning-outcomes framework, with the KBOR general education framework, which uses a discipline-specific framework.
During the fall 2022 semester, the UCCC will review the KBOR general education program to determine where alignment with the KU Core already exists and propose adjustments for KU Core goals that don’t fully align with the KBOR general education program.
In spring 2023, UCCC will send out the proposed adjustments to faculty and staff for comment and then finalize KU Core revisions to prepare for a fall 2024 implementation.
During 2023-2024 academic year, Enrollment Management and Academic Success will lead the work to update internal policies, systems, processes and student materials to prepare for a fall 2024 implementation of the revised KU Core. Communication and marketing materials, including transfer guides, KU Core materials, degree progress reports and training plans for departments, advisers, admissions staff, recruiters and others, will also be updated with information on the revised KU Core.
In fall 2023, academic units will revise the KU Catalog, including each undergraduate degree plan, to reflect updates to the KU Core.
Fall 2024, the revised KU Core that complies with the Regents general education framework will apply to incoming students.
Ensuring alignment of KU Core with accreditor standards
As KU prepares for the upcoming reaffirmation of accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which is scheduled for spring 2025, the alignment of the KU Core to the new Kansas framework will also provide an opportunity to review the KU Core compared to HLC standards. This will help assure that KU is compliant with HLC expectations for program assessment, monitoring and continuous quality improvement. More information about KU’s efforts to prepare for HLC reaffirmation will be shared at the start of the fall 2022 semester.
Improving access to KU quality
Each fall, KU welcomes roughly 1,000 new transfer students from across the state. Aligning the KU Core with the Regents’ statewide general education program will provide Kansas transfer students with a clearer route to graduation while also maintaining KU’s diverse and robust general education offerings and preserving the high-quality education experience for which KU is known.
In a recent statement, KBOR Chairwoman Cheryl Harrison-Lee touted the potential benefits of the new general education program.
“It creates a more accessible pathway for transfer between community colleges and universities and enhances a student’s ability to chart a better path through our system and complete their degree in a timely manner,” Harrison-Lee said. “This improves access for Kansans and most certainly bolsters affordability.”