Colyer denies pardons for 21 Kansas prisoners

by Brian Grimmett, Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer on Tuesday denied pardon requests for 21 of the state’s inmates.

Colyer made the announcement at a press conference in Wichita. Typically when a governor holds a press conference about pardons, it’s to announce he or she is granting one; Colyer announced only denials, focusing specifically on the clemency petition of Everett Gentry.

Gentry is serving 25 years to life for his role in the 2006 murder of 14-year-old Chelsea Brooks. The Wichita teen was nine months pregnant at the time.

The case led Kansas lawmakers, including Colyer, to pass Alexa’s Law, which allows prosecutors to add additional charges in cases where someone harms or kills an unborn child.

Colyer said he thoughtfully considered each of the 21 petitions, but that the decision in this case was easy.

“This is such a heinous crime, and what had happened to this family, and having to relive this, it should not have come forward,” he said.

Chelsea Brooks’ mother, Terry Brooks, told the governor that she is grateful for his decision and wants no mercy for her daughter’s killers.

“We’re going to work every day that we have to make sure that they spend the rest of their natural lives behind prison bars,” she said.

Colyer said if there’s ever a petitioner who can show a clear injustice, he would grant a pardon, but he stressed that he takes that power very seriously.

“It should never be done for political purposes,” he said. “It should never be done for political favors.”

Brooks’ family and friends were the only invited guests at the event.

Only nine pardons have been granted by Kansas governors in the past 25 years.

Brian Grimmett reports on the environment and energy for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @briangrimmett. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.
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Why fewer international students are coming to Kansas

by Stephan Bisaha, Kansas News Service

Tat Hidano still gets the usual questions when he’s overseas recruiting international students to Wichita State University. The big one: Where is Wichita?

But lately Hidano has been hearing another question: Will I be safe in the United States?

“The questions about safety in the United States have been dominant,” Hidano said. He says his job has begun to feel less like recruiting and more like diplomacy.

Universities across Kansas saw enrollment by international students — who often pay higher tuition — drop significantly last year, placing a further strain on already tight higher education budgets. At Wichita State, a 10 percent drop in the number of degree-bound international students on campus last fall left a nearly $1 million hole in the university’s budget.

Excluding a brief period after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, international enrollment in the U.S. has grown consistently for decades.

The decline is especially pronounced at Midwestern schools that lack the name recognition and appeal of more prestigious coastal institutions.

“I don’t think the NYU’s and the Harvards and the Yales of the world have anything to worry about but it’s other instutions that may not be as globally known,” said Rajika Bhandari, head of research and policy at the Institute of International Education.

New enrollments dropped about 7 percent for fall 2016 and universities reported that drop continued in fall 2017, though Bhandari says it’s too soon to tell if it’s a blip or a trend.

Since the 2016 presidential campaign and the start of the Trump administration, some students appear to be thinking twice about studying abroad in the U.S.

“If you have an administration that is sending signals to immigrants within this country and sending an ‘America first’ message, which can be easily perceived as ‘America only,’ it’s not surprising that students are re-evaluating whether this is the place where they’ll be able to achieve their academic dream,” said Jill Welsh, the deputy executive director of public policy at the non-profit National Association of Foreign Student Advisers.

The fear factor

Pooja Odedra came from India initially intending to study at American University in Washington, D.C., and then transferred to Butler Community College — partly because tuition at the two-year school near Wichita was cheaper, but also because of the harassment she says she experienced just walking down the street in Washington.

Odedra says Kansas has been kinder, but comments like, “you don’t deserve to be here” and “you’ll be sent back soon anyway” have stuck with her.

“It does make me feel insecure and question if I should be here, if some other country would be better,” she said.

Odedra is still interested in working in media in the United States, but she is concerned about whether she would be able to get a work visa.

There are still well over 1 million international students in the United States — many more than any other country.

“Students still see (the United States) as the best choice for themselves in terms of obtaining a world class, top quality higher education,” said Rajika Bhandari with the Institute of International Education.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia and Brazil have have reduced state-sponsored scholarship programs, leading to fewer students coming to the U.S from the two countries. Also, higher education offerings in other countries have become more competitive, giving foreign students looking to go abroad more options and encouraging others to study domestically.

“There’s been a concern for more than a decade about increasing competition from abroad for the best and brightest,” Welsh said.

Fewer visas

The number of F-1 student visas issued by the U.S. State Department has dropped by about 27 percent in fiscal year 2016 and continued to decline during the first year of the Trump administration by another 17 percent.

The State Department doesn’t break down the data, so it’s unclear to what extent that’s due to a drop in applications. But there does appear to be an increase in visa denials.

“For spring 2018, we had a much larger number of students that were denied visas,” said Vince Altum, the executive director for international education at Wichita State.

Altum says he’s heard from other recruiters and students from places like India and Sri Lanka indicating that the number of visa denials may have doubled.

“It’s kind of depressing,” he said. “You go through all this work to recruit the students that are excited about coming to Wichita and then they go through a three-minute interview in their home country, they’re denied a visa and their dreams are basically shattered at that point.”

Odedra had her visa interview a few days after the 2016 presidential election. She says several friends and acquaintances of hers have since been denied.

“A high school friend of mine was going to come here (to the U.S.) but then he decided to go to Australia because already quite a lot of our friends were rejected,” Odedra said.

Stepping up recruitment

Many American universities tout the benefits of having a more global campus, but there’s also the money from tuition.

The Kansas Legislature did restore some funding to higher education this year. But while public universities in Kansas arehaving to make up for years of dwindling state resources and are struggling to grow enrollment, international student tuition is especially important.

International students pay a lot more than in-state students. At Wichita State, tuition and fees are more than double for international students — about $8,500 a semester compared to $4,000.

Altum and his recruiting team are spending more time visiting community colleges, including Butler Community College, to entice students into continuing their education at the four-year institution. Wichita State recruiters have also visited community colleges out of state, in Dallas and Seattle.

Spending a day at a community college that may have only five or six international students is worth it, says Altum, because those students have already had their visas approved.

“The pie of international students in the U.S. is definitely shrinking,” Altum said. “So in order to maintain our share, we have to work a lot harder to make sure even we get the same number.”

The university recently reduced international tuition by a third for some qualifying international students to draw in more recruits. And the effort has prompted a big spike in the number of applications coming in — Altum is seeing about twice as many applications coming in compared to this time last year.

“These scholarships are giving us a glimmer of hope that we didn’t have last year at all,” Altum said.

Normally at this time, universities would be moving on from fall admissions and shifting to the next recruitment cycle. But Wichita State has extended its recruitment season for fall 2018 in an effort to keep international enrollment from sliding further.

“At this point I’m hoping to at least maintain the students that we have,” Altum said.

Stephan Bisaha, based at KMUW in Wichita, is an education reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha.
Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

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19-hit performance helps T-Bones bounce back

The Kansas City T-Bones (16-13) left their recent woes in the United States and dominated the Winnipeg Goldeyes (16-13) with a strong offensive performance in the fourth and sixth innings.

Three runs in each inning helped lock down the game for Kansas City, with a final score of 9-3

After losing two games in a row, the T-Bones came out swinging Monday night against the Goldeyes.

Dylan Tice started off the top of the card and singled to right field against Winnipeg’s Charle Rosario. Todd Cunningham also got on base before Nick Torres helped get Kansas City on the board first with an RBI single.

The T-Bones kept it rolling in the fourth with Adrian Nieto reaching first base on an error at shortstop by Andrew Sohn.

Keith Curcio got on base with a single before Tucker Pennell had a two-run RBI single. Angel Rosa hit a single to center field before Todd Cunningham hit a slow roller up the left side sending Pennell home, making the score 4-0. Rosa’s 12th and 13th RBI in the top of the fifth sent Curcio and Nieto home, making the score 6-0.

The top of the sixth proved to be a productive inning for the T-Bones. Cunningham led off with a walk and Nick Torres hit a single to center field, setting up a Zach Walters RBI double, making the score 7-0.

A ground ball fielders choice to first by Kjerstad brought Torres home and the T-Bones just kept rolling. Curcio’s 14th double on the season followed, putting the T-Bones up 9-0.

The Goldeyes eventually got on the board in the bottom of the sixth.

Dave Sappelt hit a single to center field before Reggie Abercrombie hit a two-run home run, cutting the T-Bones lead to 9-2. The Goldeyes scored again in the seventh inning off an RBI by Andrew Sohn but that was as close as Winnipeg got.

Tommy Collier (2-3) was the winning pitcher, tossing a quality start. He threw 6.2 innings for the T-Bones and had seven strikeouts. He was charged with three earned runs on three hits.

Jackson Lowery pitched 1.1 innings of scoreless baseball while Francisco Gracesqui threw a scoreless ninth to close out the game.

Winnipeg’s Charle Rosario (2-2) was the losing pitcher. He gave up 11 hits and six runs in five innings.

Nick Torres extended his hitting streak to 14 games while Todd Cunningham had the team’s third four-hit night of the season, going 4-for-5. The bottom four in the T-Bones order went a combined 9-for-19 while the team reached a season high in hits with 19.

Kansas City looks to extend its winning streak Tuesday in Winnipeg against the Goldeyes at Shaw Park in Canada. The first pitch is at 7:05 p.m. The game will air on the T-Bones Broadcast Network,

Individual tickets, season, group, mini-plans and nightly party suites are on sale and can be purchased by visiting the box office at T-Bones Stadium or at Call the box office at 913-328-5618. Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
– Story from T-Bones