University, local businesses face financial roller coaster during summertime

Photo by Taylor Alderman | The Collegian Tom Blevins, junior in clinical laboratory science, looks at the menu as Kristen Doll, general manager of Fuzzy's Taco Shop takes his order.

For Kent Urban, senior in accounting, summertime in Manhattan is the life. Not only does the weather provide ample sunshine for a leisurely round of golf, but his working hours are much more manageable as well.

“I’m taking six credit hours this summer to get ahead on classes,” Urban said. “It’s nice that working during the summer gives me a bit more flexibility to be able to do well in my classes too.”

Urban, who works as a driver for Black Car Airport Sedan & SUV located at 1228 Westloop Place, is responsible for providing shuttle services to and from the Manhattan Regional Airport, as well as a variety of other engagements including weddings, proms and even a “night out on the town.”

“Our business can be pretty cyclical at times,” he said. “For example, during the summer, we’ve got a lot of people traveling and in need of our services. I personally have seen a lot more return customers during the summer than during the semester because there are just more people out and about when school’s out and the weather is nice. It’s just part of the business and what we do.”

Urban said during the school year, he is enrolled as a full-time student and said whether it’s during the summer or the school year, he enjoys the fact that he can balance work and academics.

“I don’t have to work too many hours, which is nice because my main priority right now is school,” he said. “It works out well for me when I’m taking classes during the summer, too. Even though I don’t work too many hours, I have a pretty steady workload that’s usually very manageable.”

Urban’s job stability throughout the year may be considered an anomaly by many in Manhattan; student workers and businesses alike often have to make drastic adjustments to their financial plans after the exodus of students that occurs at the end of the academic year.

“We have to plan ahead and start preparing for what’s coming a few months before school ends,” Milton Diggs, shift manager at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, said.

Fuzzy’s, which was a new addition to the Aggieville family in the fall of 2013, kicked off summer plans through the form of sales promotions such as hosting a weekly trivia night, “Taco Tuesdays,” “$2 You-Call-Its” and a variety of other special deals.

“Our sales have declined a bit, but that’s just part of summer in a college town,” Diggs said. “We’re doing whatever we can to get people to come in and enjoy some food and drinks. We’re also planning ahead and trying out some different stuff so that when students come back in the fall, they’re coming back to brand new menu items and just a variety of new things to try.”

Managing expenses, however, is still a challenge. Many regular employees who work during the semester are sent home to avoid overstaffing; those who are awarded the majority of hours are typically the most versatile employees, Diggs said.

“Over the summer, we have to cut hours to manage costs,” he said. “We still need people to work though, so what we do is we look for the people who can do more than one thing. If there’s a fry cook who can also wash the dishes, or a waiter who can also make drinks and take over the cash register, we’re going to give those people more hours.”

Diggs said Fuzzy’s is not all that unfamiliar with how to run operations in a college town. With locations in many other college towns such as Lawrence, Kansas; Stillwater, Oklahoma and Norman, Oklahoma, the taco shop is no stranger to summertime sales sadness.

“You just never know what’s going to happen,” Diggs said, referring to the business’s constant fluctuation of sales, even during the semester. “There are just a lot of moving parts to being in a college town. It’s a great place to be, but there is a lot more planning involved because you don’t know how one week is going to turn out compared to the next.”

Local businesses, however, are not the only ones who lose a major source of revenue when students head home for the summer. Larry Moeder, director of student financial assistance and assistant vice president for student life, said that the university incorporates summer months into the yearly operating budget, which runs from July to June of the next year.

“There are quite a few faculty and staff members who are nine-month employees,” he said. “A few buildings on campus are closed during the summer and the ones that are open may have limited hours of usage. Basically, all of the expected costs are accounted for when the university’s budget is created every year.”

Moeder said that a variety factors affect the total budget and the allocation of expenditures, including private donor funding, state grants and awards and grants on the federal level as well.

Though most students are not on campus during the summer, the university has to remain operational for those who are taking intersession and summer courses.

“One of the reasons that summer courses are generally more expensive for in-state students is because the cost structure for the university to provide the courses over the summer is also generally higher,” he said. “Many students take distance courses which also have higher costs. It takes money to keep things running so the university needs to cover these expenses so it can continue to offer these courses over the summer.”

Moeder said that despite cuts in state funding towards higher education over the last several years, he is optimistic that the budgetary effects felt by students will be minimized through increased private funding support.

“K-State has some of the strongest alumni support systems that I’ve ever seen,” he said. “The last couple of years, we’ve seen the (Kansas State University) Foundation bring in more and more private dollars, and hopefully this is a trend that will continue this year as well. I don’t see why we wouldn’t be able to sustain that success.”