Business, Arts and Sciences propose fees intended to improve teaching


Two fee increase proposals were discussed at the Tuition and Fees Strategies Committee at its meeting Tuesday. The committee listened to presentations on per-credit-hour fee proposals by the colleges of Business Administration and Arts and Sciences.

Kevin Gwinner, professor and interim dean of the College of Business Administration, presented phase two of the college’s proposal, which would be be implemented for next school year, of the college’s three-phase plan. Amit Chakrabarti, professor of physics and interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, presented the college’s plan to double its current fees.

The Business fee increase would go toward hiring additional faculty and staff while the Arts and Sciences fee would be used to increase stipends for graduate teaching assistants and to hire additional academic advisers.

“I need to return three parent phone calls tonight, complaining about their student complaining to them about an instructor who doesn’t speak English, or doesn’t communicate well in the classroom,” Pat Bosco, committee member and dean of student life, said. “We’ve got good people doing good things, but this is a disconnect, and if it’s not addressed in this arena, it needs to be addressed somewhere else. This is a university-wide, family concern.”

Arts and Sciences responds to student complaints

Chakrabarti said the college implemented an $8-per-credit-hour fee in fiscal year 2014. The funds went toward technology, supplies, maintenance, research and travel.

The new fee would be an additional $8.70 per credit hour, which would result in a total fee of $16.70. The fee would be broken down so that $5.50 would go toward increased GTA stipends and the other $3.20 would go toward additional academic advisers.

Chakrabarti said the fee proposal is the college’s response to complaints from students about the quality of GTAs and advisers.

“I need to return three parent phone calls tonight, complaining about their student complaining to them about an instructor who doesn’t speak English, or doesn’t communicate well in the classroom,” Pat Bosco, committee member and dean of student life, said. “We’ve got good people doing good things, but this is a disconnect, and if it’s not addressed in this arena, it needs to be addressed somewhere else. This is a university-wide, family concern.”

Chakrabarti said it is important to have GTAs who know the subject well and are able to communicate in a way that students can learn. Part of the problem, Chakrabarti said, is that the pay is not competitive and does not attract the best possible GTA candidates. He said the pay for some GTAs is “shameful.”

“If you look at the English department GTA stipend, it’s actually very close to food stamp levels,” Chakrabarti said.

April Mason, committee member, provost and senior vice president, said the English department is important because it reaches every student who attends K-State.

Mason said some departments are not able to get their first and second choices for GTAs based on GRE scores, undergraduate GPAs and other factors because the pay is not competitive, adding that she was not putting down any of the current GTAs.

Cindy Bontrager, committee member and vice president of administration and finance, said another reason the stipends are low compared to other institutions is that the state Legislature has not approved any salary increases since fiscal year 2009.

Chakrabarti said the college’s average stipend for GTAs is about $4,000 below the averages of K-State’s peer institutions. There were 414 GTAs in the college in 2014-15.

To increase stipends to meet the peer average, Chakrabarti said $1.7 million is needed, and the $5.50 portion of the fee will meet that.

Chakrabarti said the college needs an additional 18 full-time advisers. The $3.20 portion of the fee would raise $1.08 million for $40,000 salaries plus fringe benefits.

For a student taking 30 credit hours of Arts and Sciences classes in an academic year, the total cost of the existing $8 fee would be $240. The additional $8.70 fee would bring the total to $501, an additional $261.

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.

“When you look at it relative to all the other colleges’ fees, (the Arts and Sciences fee) is like nothing compared to (the other colleges’ fees),” Emily Beneda, committee member and senior in food science and industry, said. “I know (Arts and Sciences) have more students and everyone takes their classes, but I definitely see the need for better GTAs in my own personal experience.”

Business Administration cites class size concerns

Gwinner said the original proposal, which was introduced before he became the dean, called for a $100 per-credit-hour fee. It would have been phased in over five years at $20 per year. Gwinner said the college is not looking for the $100 fee now.

Instead, a $45 fee, phased in over three years at $15 per year, is the new plan. The first phase of $15 has already gone into effect. Now, the college is seeking to implement the second phase.

The fee will be used to hire 14 new faculty and the equivalent of 5.4 new full-time staff. Gwinner said the purpose of hiring additional faculty is to reduce class sizes while also offering more elective classes.

“We’re trying to offer (elective classes) more often, so students have greater opportunity to take those courses, and then to offer new elective courses that we’re not currently able to offer,” Gwinner said.

The support for academic advising will help improve the college’s professional adviser model, Gwinner said. A portion of the funds would also go toward support staff at the new College of Business building, including a building manager and technology support staff.

Gwinner gave an update of the progress so far on the first phase of the fee. Three instructors have been hired, resulting in nine new course sections for the spring 2016 semester. The college has ongoing searches for one professor and two instructors, which will result in 11 additional course sections starting in fall 2016.

Overall, the six hires will result in 40 new course sections per school year.

Four of what Gwinner called core classes for business majors and minors will see a decrease in class sizes as a result of the first phase of the fee. Finance 450, which Gwinner said is one of the most difficult classes in the major, will see its average class size decrease from 380 to 75.

Management 366 and 420 and Marketing 400 will also see decreases in class sizes.

Gwinner also said there has been an increase in advising capacity, and the building manager will be hired in spring 2016.

Transparency about the fee, including its costs and benefits, was something Gwinner said has been important throughout the process.

Gwinner said one of those areas of transparency includes the overall cost of tuition and fees to attend the College of Business. Bosco said the college informs current and potential students about cost estimates, but the exact amount cannot be known until after the state Legislature finalizes the budget. He said the university is in a difficult situation because of the nature of politics in Kansas.

To inform students of the fee proposal, Gwinner said two forums were held in the fall, and an information video was posted on the college’s website and emailed to all current business students. So far, the student feedback from the college’s outreach has been mostly positive, Gwinner said.

“The students saw the benefit that was going to come from the fee,” Gwinner said. “But of course, whenever you’re looking at raising the price of something, there’s a question mark. But I believe that the value was there.”

Fred Guzek, committee member, Faculty Senate president and professor of business at K-State Polytechnic, was supportive of the fee proposal. He said business majors will earn enough money throughout their careers after graduation to make the fee a worthy investment.

“We’re really not asking them to invest in their education the way we should,” Guzek said.

Kurt Lockwood, committee co-chair, SGA speaker of the senate and senior in agricultural economics, said he was uneasy about the fee proposal because he does not see the explicit need for the fee.

He said that while the student leaders within the College of Business may be in support of the fee increase, he would like to gauge feedback from a greater depth of students within the college.

Candice Wilson, committee member and graduate student in agricultural economics, said approval for the fee could be a “slippery slope.”

“At what point are we going to say enough is enough?” Wilson said.

Andy Hurtig, committee member, student body president and senior in accounting, said he is also concerned about the potential for a slippery slope because fees do not typically go away after they are implemented.

Trenton Kennedy, committee member, SGA senator, student body vice president-elect and sophomore in entrepreneurship, said the committee can only judge the merit of this proposal and cannot make decisions based on potential fee increases in the future. Stephen Kucera, committee member, SGA senator and senior in music performance and accounting, said he agreed, adding that the current committee can write an open letter to future committees to explain these concerns as well as others.

Kennedy added that, as a business student, there are two electives that he currently cannot take that he would like to and that they would potentially be offered if the fee proposal is approved.

Gwinner said there are ongoing efforts to increase need-based scholarship aid to help offset the financial impact on students.

“We are clearly sensitive to the financial impact that this has on students,” Gwinner said. “As a father of a freshman here at K-State and a freshman next year at K-State, I am particularly sensitive to this.”

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.