College of Arts, Sciences proposes fee increase

(Illustration by Carly Adams | The Collegian)

The College of Arts and Sciences discussed a proposal that would increase student fees at a public forum in Willard Hall Room 114 on Wednesday.

The proposal would raise the student per-credit-hour fee for classes within the college from $8 to $16.70. The funds would be used to increase stipends for graduate teaching assistants and to hire more professional academic advisers, according to a PowerPoint presentation shown during the forum.

“We want to make sure that we’re not overloading the advisers that we have and thereby decreasing the quality of advising for all the students,” Beth Montelone, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said. “We’ve hosted trainings for (graduate teaching assistants), and faculty attended those, too, to think about ways to improve instruction.”

The first half of the proposal uses $5.50 of the $8.70 increase to raise $1.7 million for GTA stipends, according to the PowerPoint presentation. It stated that K-State’s 414 GTAs for 2014-2015 were “behind peer averages by about $4,000 per GTA.”

“The continuing challenge that we have is to deliver the best experience we can for all our students,” Peter Dorhout, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said. “We have struggled as a college and as an institution, but primarily as a college, to be able to recruit graduate students into our programs for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is we have not had competitive support compared to many of our peer institutions and our competitors.”

The PowerPoint stated that the second part of the proposal uses $3.20 of the $8.70 increase to raise $1.8 million for more academic advisers. The goal is to have the student-to-full-time-adviser ratio below 300-to-1. To accomplish this, 18 more full-time advisers are needed, according to the PowerPoint. The funds would be spent on $40,000 salaries and fringe benefits.

“The numbers that we came up with are based on department heads coming to me and saying, ‘We want money from the college, we want to be able to hire more, or any, professional advisers,'” Dorhout said. “There isn’t a department that hasn’t come to me and said, ‘I want to do something in terms of professional advisers.'”

Dorhout said faculty will still advise students. This proposal will just provide funds for more advisers.

“We also worry about advising,” Dorhout said. “And part of the challenge that I think everyone has faced is that, while you love your faculty to death, it is often hard to get in to see them for advising as majors.”

The current $8-per-credit-hour College of Arts and Sciences instructional fee is used for several purposes, according to the PowerPoint.

The fee brings in about $2.2 million per year. Of this amount, $250,000 is spent on undergraduate teaching assistants, $537,000 is spent on large equipment grants and $1.06 million is spent on instructional supplies, small equipment, classroom improvements, technology, instruments and other uses.

Student equipment purchased using student fee funds can be identified by a special purple sticker.

“We feel as though our mission is to be very good stewards of the students’ investments,” Montelone said.

“We’ve tried very diligently to keep the tuition and the fees relatively low at Kansas Sate University, and we’ve tried to do that while at the same time trying to deliver the best experiences for you,” Dorhout said to the students in attendance at the forum.

Most of the approximately 30 people in attendance said they were undergraduate students in arts and sciences when asked by Dorhout. Several were also Student Governing Association senators from the college.

There is an instructional fee advisory committee comprised of faculty and students, according to the PowerPoint.

“My hope is that we feel like we are being as transparent as we can with the resources that you all provide,” Dorhout said.

Dorhout said the fee was instituted because students and alumni were saying something needed to be done to improve the arts and sciences learning experience in classes.

“We’ve discovered that students and alumni were telling us that their experiences within our college were not what they had anticipated or expected, so we turned to several different mechanisms to try to improve that,” Dorhout said. “And in the end, we turned toward a fee.”

Dorhout also said this proposal is not a knock against the current GTAs.

“Not to suggest that we don’t have great graduate students now, but I’m sure many of you have experienced great TAs over labs and studios and classrooms, but we want to get them to use the motto of 4-H: ‘To make the best better,'” Dorhout said.

After the presentation, Dorhout held a question and answer session. Several students spoke up in support of the proposal, citing the expected benefits for students.

“I think that providing competitive stipends for graduate teaching assistants is really a good thing because I work in a lab alongside a lot of graduate students, and teaching is a burden that semester that they are involved with teaching,” James Houghton, junior in biochemistry, said.

One student voiced concerns over future attempts to continue raising the fee.

“I can’t say (fees won’t be raised again),” Dorhout said. “I don’t want to come back (and raise the fee again). This is a function of the political situation we’re in with the state. I’m not going to cast dispersions on any one person or party, I’m just saying that’s the hand that we’re dealt.”

According to the K-State Admissions’ website, several of the colleges have per-credit-hour fees. Agriculture’s is $20, Architecture, Planning and Design’s is $40, Arts and Sciences’ is $8, Engineering’s is $54, Human Ecology’s is $20 and Business Administration’s is $35 with an additional $100 fee per semester.

The PowerPoint presentation stated that for all 120 credit hours needed for graduation, the average total cost for arts and sciences students would be $960. The total fee cost for students from other colleges taking arts and sciences courses would average a total of $432 by the time of graduation.

“I think it will enhance the opportunities that we have in terms of supporting our graduate students here on campus,” Dorhout said. “I think it’s going to make a huge difference.”

The proposal will be sent to the provost’s office on Monday. If approved, the fee will go into effect for the fall semester.

Jason Tidd graduated from Kansas State University's Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communication in May 2017. He was the spring 2017 editor-in-chief, fall 2016 news editor and spring 2016 assistant news editor. While at K-State, Jason played baritone in the Pride of Wildcat Land marching band.