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Recent Kansas editorials

October 9, 2018

The Kansas City Star, Oct. 7

In Topeka, Trump’s funniest line was about Kobach’s “far-left opponent,” Laura Kelly

The crowd at President Donald Trump’s rally in Topeka on Saturday night laughed at nearly everything the president had to say, taking special pleasure in his insults of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — “Hey, maybe I’m an Indian, and I’m going to do very well” — and “Sleepy” Joe Biden — “Obama took him off the trash heap” — and “Da Nang Dick” Blumenthal, the senator whose dishonesty about serving in Vietnam the president called “the worst in the history of the country, if you look at it.”

The funniest line in this litany of disparagements from the Don Rickles of presidents, though, was when he called Kansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly the “far-left opponent” of Republican Kris Kobach, and a sworn enemy of the Second Amendment.

Funny, of course, because the knock on her has always been that she’s so unrelievedly moderate. She has quite a pro-gun record in the eyes of her fellow Democrats, and among other people who have ever heard of her.

Sure, the president is a talented exaggerator, and his base loves that about him. When he says all Senate Democrats support “an open borders bill by Leakin’ Dianne Feinstein,” we’re sure they know he’s referring to the “Keep Families Together Act” that says “detention is not in the best interests of families and children.”

When he says, “We will always protect Americans with pre-existing conditions,” GOP efforts to do the opposite in no way dampen the crowd’s appreciation.

When he talks about ICE “liberating a town” and then another and another from the control of MS-13, as if “a foreign invader is finally being taken out,” it doesn’t matter that MS-13 recruits from inside the U.S. and isn’t growing as a result of gang members coming into the country, illegally or otherwise.

When he says that African-American voters are “changing and changing fast” to support the GOP now that he’s in charge, just as Kanye, “Big Jim Brown” and “Iron Mike” do, so what if almost all polling has consistently shown his approval among black Americans is still in single digits?

When he says “we’re the fastest-developing country in the world,” it doesn’t matter that of course we’re not developing at all, but are long since fully developed. This is entertainment, and is not intended to be fact-checkable. Though we don’t necessarily think of Trump as a Maya Angelou aficionado, he does ascribe to her dictum that “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

So when Trump says that former President Barack Obama “would have gone to war” with North Korea by now? Or when he claims that an Obama adviser admitted to him, when he asked why they hadn’t met with North Korea’s dictator, “We haven’t thought of that!” it’s not a problem that everyone knows that never would have happened, and didn’t.

Even connoisseurs of hyperbole, though, have to admit that Laura Kelly, wild-eyed radical, is a tough sell.

The point of Trump’s rally, for which some Kansans camped out the night before, was in theory to swing support to Kobach and to congressional candidate Steve Watkins, who’s been in trouble for his own skirmishes with facts.

So, was it worth the trip for Trump? It’s hard to imagine that Kobach might now have a single supporter he didn’t have before the rally, though Trump’s continued support might bolster his fundraising.

For anyone who was undecided, it’s just too hard to square solid and safe Kelly with Trump’s scaremongering that “you don’t hand matches to an arsonist and you don’t hand power to an angry left-wing mob.”

It’s far more likely that Trump’s trip will benefit virtually unknown Watkins, who’s running for Congress against Paul Davis. A vote for Davis, Trump says, “is a vote for the radical agenda” of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and “the legendary Maxine Waters.” Davis has said he wouldn’t support Pelosi for House speaker.

Watkins, who spent most of his time at the microphone praising the president, did not really crack up the crowd when he joked, “Just think how much more he could have accomplished if he were a Kansan!” But given the way his campaign has been going, even a moment’s attention from the president was the best thing that could have happened to his campaign.


The Manhattan Mercury, Oct. 8

Bump need-based aid, but don’t ax merit aid at KSU

More bad enrollment news from K-State: They’re killing off the Putnam Scholarship.

The university announced last week that it was eliminating the Putnam, a major source of merit-based scholarship aid. The scholarship awards up to $9,000 per year to students who score a 32 or above on the ACT, and have a grade-point average of at least 3.85.

There are 301 current recipients, amounting to $2.7 million in scholarship aid. They’ll get to keep those scholarships, but there won’t be any more recipients.

The university said it’s shifting toward more need-based aid, helping families that have more trouble paying tuition.

Boosting need-based aid is good. Rising tuition costs — which are an outgrowth of the decline of public funding of higher education — will inevitably drive more potential students away. Keep in mind, as we’ve been saying here a lot lately, that Manhattan is a college town, and that if kids stop coming here to college, we have a major problem.

Enrollment fell another 500-some this fall, meaning it’s down more than 10 percent in four years. Major problem.

So, yes, bump up need-based aid. But don’t cut merit-based aid. We want the best students here. We want to compete with other universities, who go after these students hard with scholarship offers. A kid here on merit-based aid is just as good (at least) as a kid here on need-based aid.

Why cut the merit-based aid? Well, obviously there’s not enough money to do both. That’s the essential problem.

We can’t really fault the university for doing what it thinks is best. Everybody up on campus knows the importance of enrollment, and scholarships help drive enrollment. They’re just making the best choices they can under the circumstances.

The answer, of course, is more money. That money has to come either from taxpayers or from donors. The fundraisers at the KSU Foundation will keep shaking all the trees they can to get support for the scholarships necessary. We encourage any donors to step up now.

Will that be enough? Probably not. It’s going to take some public effort to get this turned around.

At the moment, it appears to be headed in the wrong direction.


The Lawrence Journal-World, Oct. 07

Editorial: KU enrollment concerning

The University of Kansas issued a news release Monday celebrating enrollment growth at the university. The same day, the Kansas Board of Regents issued a report showing enrollment at KU is down.

Turns out, enrollment is in the eye of the beholder.

This summer, the Board of Regents changed the way it calculates enrollment, moving away from the traditional 20th-day head count to a full-time equivalency metric. Instead of counting students, the Regents total credit hours and divide by 15, the average credit hours for a full-time undergraduate student per semester. The result produces the number of FTEs.

According to the Regents, the number of FTEs at KU in the fall of 2018 decreased slightly for KU’s Lawrence and Edwards campuses. Only one other Regents university — Pittsburg State — saw a decrease in FTE enrollment.

Meanwhile, KU used a traditional head count. The head count method shows KU has 28,510 students across all campuses, with an increase of 63 students from last year. KU announced that it was the fifth straight year that KU has grown total head count. In fact, 28,510 students is the highest overall enrollment at KU since 2011.

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said the enrollment gains marked a “special year for the University of Kansas.”

But is what KU presented really an accurate picture of what’s happening at the university?

KU’s numbers are for total enrollment, including not only the Lawrence and Edwards campuses but also the KU Medical Center campuses in Salina, Wichita and Kansas City. When KU subtracts out the medical center, enrollment actually declined by 71 students from 2017.

And while KU did not break out numbers between the Lawrence and Edwards campuses, university spokesman Joe Monaco said that enrollment grew at the Edwards campus from 2017 to 2018, meaning the biggest enrollment loss is at the Lawrence campus.

In fact, using the traditional headcount method, enrollment at the Lawrence and Edwards campuses has declined by more than 2,000 students in the past 10 years, with most of that loss coming in Lawrence.

Blake Flanders, president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents, acknowledged that statewide enrollment numbers were “mixed” and said the Regents would continue to look for ways to improve on the number of people enrolling in higher education.

That’s a much more honest assessment than the spin KU put forth. Undergraduate enrollment at the Lawrence campus is the barometer for the University of Kansas and continued declines raise concerns that shouldn’t be dismissed by pointing to growth at satellites.

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