TOPEKA – Friends University in Wichita offers a Bachelor of Zoological Science degree, while Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas is ranked as the most diverse university in the Midwest.
Baker University, the oldest continuously operated university in Kansas, was established in 1858 long before the state’s large public universities were launched. The state’s first junior college – Central Christian – is now McPherson College, and offers a premier program in antique automobile restoration.
These accredited, nonprofit higher education institutions help form the backbone of the Kansas Independent College Association. Each of the association’s 20 liberal arts colleges and universities has vibrant stories to tell about contributing to the state’s well-being and workforce, said Matt Lindsey, association president .
He said Kansas does not have a branded elite private college, such as Notre Dame, Stanford or Duke. Instead, there are all the private schools with enrollments ranging from 300 to 3,600 that operate alongside an assortment of over 30 public universities and colleges.
“We have to speak a little louder to talk about some of the great things that we do,” Lindsey said on the Kansas Reflector podcast. “We are often faced with four-year public schools. Our native Kansas thinking is turned towards KU, K-State and Wichita State. We need all of us to row together to have a thriving economy and culture in this state. And that leads to a lot of very powerful conversations in policymaking about what our role can be. “
Lindsey said the state’s private liberal arts colleges and universities sometimes bogged down in stereotypes about high tuition fees and diversity deficits, but these institutions were a magnet for students during the COVID-pandemic. 19.
Last fall, independent colleges and universities in Kansas welcomed a total of 23,263 students, a total decline of 5.6%. However, enrollment on their main campuses of association schools increased by more than 2%. The slippage on satellite campuses was offset by a 7% increase in international students.
At the same time, enrollments fell 3.6% at the six public universities managed by the Kansas Board of Regents. Enrollment fell 11.7% at public community colleges and 8.7% at public technical colleges in Kansas.
“This was driven by a large number of out-of-state students attending private Kansas colleges,” Lindsey said. “I suspect it’s because we made a commitment to be in person and do our best to be a community where we held each other accountable for the things that kept us safe from COVID.”
The association’s private schools own about 11% of Kansas’ student body, but award one-fifth of bachelor’s degrees. These colleges and universities produced 40% of the baccalaureate nursing degrees and 19% of the state’s new teachers.
Virtue of size, mission
Lindsey said a student choosing to attend Manhattan Christian College instead of Emporia State University, for example, might be drawn to a more personalized academic environment not possible at large schools. He said private Christian college president Kevin Ingram could walk around the campus and refer to student after student by name. This is not realistic for ESU President Allison Garrett or for other leaders of major universities.
“Not just the name, but, you know, ‘Did you study for your math test? Great job in the volleyball game last night. How’s your grandmother doing? It is a virtue of our size and our mission. I don’t think it would be fair to ask President Garrett to be able to do this at Emporia State. The mission is different, ”he said.
The net cost of a four-year bachelor’s degree at Kansas Independent College Association schools was $ 69,000, as few students were forced to pay the listed price due to financial aid, Lindsey said. A key distinction in the financial analysis was that 84% of graduates from those 20 private schools completed in four years, he said. The four-year graduation rate at the University of Kansas was about 50%.
Lindsey said the college debt problem was most acute among students who borrowed a stack of money to take another year or two to graduate, or who didn’t get a degree offering access to careers with higher income potential. Instead of a marketable asset, he said, the university has become a liability for those who don’t finish on time or not at all.
He said he was skeptical that private schools in the state would approve a national policy offering free tuition at community colleges across the country.
“I am not in favor of this approach. And I don’t think our private colleges would view that as favorable. A federal policy of saying that this sector is what we are going to broadly support seems problematic to us on the basis of a precedent, ”he said.