KU Alumni Association ends scholars program

By The Herald Staff

An end of era is at hand for one scholars award program.

The University of Kansas Alumni Association’s national board of directors has voted unanimously to retire the Kansas Honor Scholars Program (KHSP), which since 1971 has recognized the top 10% of high school seniors throughout Kansas for their academic achievement.

The Association will redirect financial and staff resources to provide increased KU scholarships for Kansas students, as well as enhanced recruitment of prospective KU students and mentoring and career resources for current students.

“The conclusion of the KHSP era is bittersweet,” said Heath Peterson, Alumni Association president. “We’re proud of the tradition, and we deeply appreciate the participation of Kansas high school administrators throughout the past 50 years.  “We’re also grateful to the generations of alumni donors and volunteers in all 105 counties who helped sustain the program since 1971.”

Thousands of local students through the past 50 years have been awarded scholarships through the program.

Founded as the Kansas Honors Program, the tradition evolved in recent years from 36 dinners to 14 regional receptions. Private donations and sales of Jayhawk license plates enabled the Association to provide increased scholarships for Kansas Honor Scholars who chose to attend KU. Although the national board’s decision means the Association will no longer recognize high school seniors, gifts to the scholarship fund and license plate revenue will continue to provide much-needed assistance to Kansas students who enroll at KU.

Amid this challenging year, when the pandemic prohibited large in-person events, the Alumni Association produced an online video tribute and mailed commemorative medallions and certificates to all high schools for distribution to their scholars.

The pandemic also heightened the ongoing financial challenges for the University of Kansas — especially the urgent need for scholarships and enhanced student recruitment to assist deserving young Kansans and help KU sustain and grow its enrollment.

Mindful of the Alumni Association’s mission to strengthen the university, the board of directors conducted a thorough review of all programs to consider how best to fulfill the Association’s mission in the years ahead.

The board concluded that investing directly in scholarships, student recruitment and career resources for students will provide greater impact and help position KU — and future Jayhawks — for continued success.