TOPEKA, Kan. — The people who govern the state universities want Kansas high school students to be better prepared before graduating.

Currently, a task force is considering changing high school graduation requirements.

In January, the task force asked the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) for input. The board oversees six state universities and coordinates with community and technical colleges.

The KBOR sent the task force six recommendations this month, including requiring more math and computer science in high school.

1. Another math class

The KBOR wants Kansas high school students to have four units of math before they can graduate. The current Kansas requirement is three.

The KBOR said math skills are critical for higher education preparation and success in the workforce.

2. Keep English requirement

The Graduation Requirements Task Force is considering reducing the required number of English units from four to three and a half.

The KBOR wants the requirement to stay at four units. It said some college teachers are reporting that recent high school graduates lack the necessary writing skills for collegiate-level work. It results in students struggling with schoolwork and needing English remediation.

The KBOR said a strong commitment to developing and honing writing skills is a critical component
for both college and career readiness.

3. Add computer science

The KBOR wants students to have a computer science class before college or entering the workforce. It says computer science is a critical workforce skill.

However, the board members realize that some high schools do not have a teacher with the required knowledge to teach computer science. Therefore, it said colleges and universities would work with the KSDE to support expanding computer science offerings for high school students.

The arrangements could include having a higher education faculty member teach the class at a high school, having the students take an online course, or having a high school teacher take a course to be able to teach computer science.

4. Complete a FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the official form families use to apply for federal financial aid to pay for college. KBOR wants every student to complete one as a requirement for high school graduation as a way to see the opportunities for higher education and financial support available.

KBOR said fewer than half of 2021 high school graduates completed the FAFSA, resulting in more than $35 million in grants going unclaimed.

It said that students who complete the FAFSA are 63% more likely to enroll in college immediately after high school than students who do not complete the form. It also said that students who do not complete the form are often the ones most likely to qualify for aid.

5. Individual Plan of Study (IPS)

Kansas high schools already work with students on an IPS, helping the students set goals and create a road map that goes beyond high school.

KBOR recommends that high schools partner with the KBOR, universities, community colleges and technical colleges to identify ways to utilize the IPS to include postsecondary education academic advising and FAFSA support.

6. Concurrent enrollment

KBOR also strongly recommends that high schools work with the KBOR, universities, community colleges and technical colleges to aggressively expand concurrent enrollment, which provides opportunities for high school students to take college-level courses and earn college credit while in high school.

According to the Board, data has shown that concurrent enrollment is linked with higher achievement on several short-term and long-term collegiate success measures. It says expanding the collaboration between Kansas high schools and higher education will help more students succeed in their education after high school graduation.

“The Regents are eager to work with the Kansas State Board of Education to help students prepare for education beyond high school,” KBOR Chair Cheryl Harrison-Lee said. “Together, our two boards can help students chart a successful path from high school graduation through postsecondary to their chosen careers and earn family-sustaining wages. Our collaboration will ensure that Kansans prosper and that our state has a robust talent pipeline.”

According to the KBOR resolution, individuals with an associate degree earn 25% more during their lifetimes than those with only a high school diploma, and those with a bachelor’s degree earn 75% more.

It also points to college preparedness, as measured by ACT benchmarks, declining for six years.

Click here to see the current KSDE high school graduation requirements.

The Graduation Requirements Task Force is expected to issue its report to the Kansas Department of Education (KSDE) on May 10.