A new report says Kansas is in a better position than most
states to meet future workforce education needs, but offers some warnings about
educational equity, state economy and finance policies.
The report indicates the Kansas education system, from pre-K
through postsecondary, does relatively well in preparing students to complete
high school, participate in postsecondary education and complete a degree or
workforce credential – and does so at a fairly low cost. These conclusions are
consistent with KASB’s Comparing Kansas report on educational attainment and
However, the report notes that all states are projected to fall
short of projected educational needs.
College Opportunity at Risk: An Assessment of the States, was prepared by the
Institute for Research on Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania’s
Graduate School of Education. It provides a state-by-state “risk
ranking” for addressing future educational opportunity using 17 indicators
in four areas: education performance (both K-12 and higher education),
education equity, higher education funding and productivity, and state economy
“Unless state and college leaders take
steps to ensure that more Americans attain postsecondary degrees and
certifications, the United States will be woefully unprepared for the economic
and civic challenges of the 21st century,” say the authors, led
by Dr. Joni E. Finney, director of the Institute for Higher Education Research.
“By 2025, the United States will need approximately 60 percent of its workforce
to have college degrees, workforce certificates, industry certifications, and
other high-quality college credentials (Lumina Foundation, 2018).” The report
indicates that Kansas had 50.7 percent of its residents meeting those goals in
2016, and says if Kansas fails to improve, it will fall short of the 60 percent
benchmark by 133,877 in 2025.
Other reports have suggested Kansas will have an even greater
need for credentialed workers. The Georgetown Center on Education and the
in 2013 that the nation will need 65 percent of workers with a postsecondary
credential and that Kansas would need 71 percent – tied for sixth highest among
the 50 states. These concerns have been a driving force in the Kansas State
Board of Education’s Kansans Can vision to boost high school graduation and
postsecondary attainment rates.
How Kansas scored in the new report
The College Opportunity at Risk Report ranks states on a range
of indicators available for all states. The method is similar to KASB’s Comparing
Kansas report, but is much more focused on higher education data, as well as state budget and economy measures.
Overall, Kansas ranked 12 LOWEST in “risk rank,” meaning 11
states were considered to have a lower risk of not meeting educational goals and 38 were at higher risk. The states with lower risk rankings were (from
lowest risk to highest): Washington, Vermont, Virginia, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, Wisconsin, Indiana, North Carolina, Florida and Delaware.
How does Kansas fare in the individual areas covered by the report, and what implications does it have for state and local policies?
Education Performance – Kansas ranked 9th
Kansas ranked in the top 15 states in high school graduation
rate (89 percent) and percent of population enrolled in education beyond high
schools (45 percent for 18-23-year-olds and 5.8 percent, for 24-64-year-olds).
It also ranked higher in the percent of community college students completing a
two-year degree within three years (34.6 percent).
Kansas was average in the percent of students scoring at
proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in reading and
math at fourth and eighth grade (between 33-41 percent), the percent of
students completing a four-year degree within six years (51.8 percent) and
percent of family income, on average, required to pay the cost of attending
postsecondary institutions (after subtracting all financial aid) in the state
(27.2 percent). Kansas ranked lowest in the percent of passing Advanced
Placement test scores per 100 juniors and seniors (13.4).
The Kansans Can vision places a high emphasis on graduation
rates and postsecondary participation, which, along with career-focused
individual plans for study, make up three of the five outcomes that all
districts are to focus on. (The other two are kindergarten readiness and social
and emotional issues.) The Kansas Department of Education last year developed a
Postsecondary Effectiveness report as one of the accountability tools for all
Educational Equity –
Kansas ranked 33rd
Kansas ranked 20th in the white/non-white gap in
high school completion or graduation rate (8.5 percent). It ranked 33rd in the percentage difference between the percent of non-white students enrolled
in degree or workforce certificate programs (7.4 percent). In other words, a
smaller percentage of students from racial and ethnic minorities are enrolled
in postsecondary programs than are in the overall population.
Kansas ranked 42nd in the gap between white and
non-white students in the “on time” completion rate for two-year and four-year
institutions. Finally, Kansas ranked 20th in “geographic equity,”
defined as the average distance from each county center and the closest
degree-granting institution (6.4 miles).
This data suggests Kansas is about average in the
“achievement gap” between white and non-white students for high school
graduation, but a lower percentage of non-white students attend postsecondary
programs and an even lower percentage actually complete those programs.
Note that the equity gap only measures the difference between
white and non-white students. For example, a smaller difference between white
and non-white students was considered better, even if both groups were below
the national average, than a larger difference if both groups were higher than
Funding and Productively – Kansas ranked 2nd
This was the best area for Kansas. The state was in the top
15 states in postsecondary productively or state and local appropriations per
degree and certificate produced at all public institutions ($25,082), and in
the number of degrees and workforce certificates awarded for every 100
full-time equivalent students at all degree-granted institutions.
Kansas ranked 2nd in the “volatility of higher
education appropriations,” defined as the percent of the amount of money
appropriated specifically for higher education fluctuated annually between 2000
and 2015. Ranking 2nd means higher education appropriations in Kansas
were NOT volatile; that state support did not change as much from year to year
as most states.
This data suggests that a comparatively high percentage of
students complete degrees at a relatively low cost to the state. It indicates
that Kansas state support for higher education has been quite stable compared
to other states but does not show how the level of funding compares to costs or
State Economy and
Finances – Kansas ranked 31st
The report’s final area looks at a state’s economy and
fiscal practices. On the economic side, Kansas was fairly average in gross
domestic product (revenue from all goods and services in the state’s economy)
per capita in 2016 ($46,217). The Kansas “New Economy Index” ranked 30th.
The index developed by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
(ITIF) is a composite indicator that represents how well the structure of each
state’s economy aligns with the ideal structure of the New Economy in five
broad categories: knowledge jobs; globalization; economic dynamism; the digital
economy; and innovation capacity. Finally, Kansas ranked 23rd in
Income Inequality, the gap between the median family income of families in the
highest and lowest income groups.
In terms of state fiscal policies, Kansas ranked 17th
in volatility of general fund expenditures, the average annual fluctuation of
state expenditures from year to year between 2000 and 2015 (2.7 percentage
points). The state’s worse rank, 47th, was state reserves, with an
average “rainy day fund” balance of 0.0 percent between 2016 and 2018. Finally,
Kansas ranked 21st in state debt and unfunded liability as a percent
of state revenue (180.6 percent).
It is unclear how the report defines “rainy day funds” in
state budgets. Kansas does not have a separate rainy day fund but is supposed
to maintain state general fund ending balances of 7.5 percent. That threshold has been regularly ignored in recent years.
Although the report suggests that Kansas is better
positioned than most states in providing postsecondary opportunity for its
students. There are two major concerns.
First, Kansas has wider disparities between white and
non-white students in postsecondary education than most states. That is especially
problematic considering other reports that project the non-white population in
Kansas will grow faster than in most states. Second, the state’s economic
ability to support education is barely average compared to other states.
The biggest area of concern raised by the authors of the
report is the shifting financial burden for postsecondary education from state
and local funding to tuition, and the impact of that shift on under-represented
student populations. It calls for new compacts for public education. “Today it
is clear that post–WWII state policies, which were designed to educate 30 to 40
percent of Americans beyond high school, do not meet current and future
demand,” said the report, stressing that new economic demands will require
educating 60 percent or more of students beyond high school.