College of Business unable to fully utilize new building due to budget cuts

The Business Administration building, finished in August 2016, occupies 160,143 feet of space behind the President's Residence on the east side of campus. (File Photo by Mason Swenson | The Collegian)

Despite the appearance of a “big, expensive building” that was recently built for Kansas State’s College of Business Administration, the college is struggling to provide a stellar experience in its new home due to state cuts and a university callback.

“People are like ‘oh you guys aren’t struggling’ (because of the building),” Eric Higgins, associate dean of the College of Business Administration, said. “Well we are when it comes to people and those salaries and that kind of thing because it’s all harder to raise money for. That’s the challenge that we have.”

Higgins said that due to a cut and callback of about $700,000 total, the college has had to do “some rearranging” of staff. While not necessarily permanent, he said the college leaders have done what they can to keep the positions they currently have.

To do so, the College of Business Administration proposed a fee through the Tuition and Fees Strategies Committee that would be phased in over three years.

“The surcharge plan was a three-year plan with the caveat that we go back to the students (through the fees committee) each year,” Higgens said. “So we went back last year and they said OK. This will be the third year coming up. And you know we can’t predict how that (fee request) will be perceived, but we do plan on going back.”

As reported last spring by the Collegian, the fee requested an additional $45 per credit hour to be added over three years, with $15 added each year. The college estimated a revenue of $2.25 million per year after full implementation at the end of the three phases.

Added fee minimizes impact from cuts

Patrick Kennedy, senior in finance and president of the Dean’s Student Advisory Council for the College of Business Administration, said the fee is needed and it is a way to combat the increase in cuts while allowing the college to hire more faculty and staff.

“This fee has allowed for us to reduce class sizes and focus on offering new electives to our students that will allow them to be more marketable upon graduation,” Kennedy said. “If we didn’t need this fee we wouldn’t have it, but sadly it is our way of combating cuts while increasing the value of our education as a business student.”

With the fee directly affecting students, both Higgins and Kennedy said they have done what they can to ensure they are acting in students’ best interest.

“Each year before proposing each phase we make sure to get student voice through open forums and constant discussion with our organizations’ presidents,” Kennedy said. “We want to make sure we are transparent with everyone and hear what students have to say about this.”

Higgins said that while the fee was intended to increase faculty and staff and while they have been able to do so thus far, he is not confident that he will be able to avoid cutting faculty after there has been talk of another 5 percent cut looming over the near future.

“We didn’t necessarily have to lose anybody yet,” Higgins said while knocking on the wood table. “But the reality is that this next round of cuts is going to make it harder and harder, and most likely if we got that 5 percent cut, we would for sure be losing three to four positions.”

Celeste Bartels, junior in marketing and management, said she believes the fee has been justified, as the College of Business Administration has been dedicated to its students despite the cuts it has faced.

“We’ve already seen the benefits of additional faculty in one of our hardest courses, Finance 450,” Bartels said. “Previously a very large lecture with one instructor was teaching most sections of the course. Now, about 34-40 people are enrolled in the sections with an additional instructor.”

Alumni made building possible

Higgins said with the new building, he hates having to make cuts that will not allow the college to fully utilize its new space.

“You know we’ve tried over the last several years to reduce class sizes and do different things as we came to this new building and to utilize these cool learning facilities that we now have, but if we don’t have the folks to do it then we can’t,” Higgins said. “And that’s the problem we got.”

Higgins said he is thankful for the alumni support, but as the state keeps cutting funding, there is only so much he can do.

“More than three-fourths of the building was funded by donations outside of the university,” Bartels said. “The budget cuts facing the university have certainly affected the College of Business and our students. However, thanks to many incredibly generous alumni from the College of Business, the effects have been minimized.”

Due to the cuts and callbacks, Higgins said he has had no choice but to rely on different sources of funding, and he is doing what he can to make it clear that the building was funded almost entirely from private money.

“People just kind of go, ‘oh,’” Higgins said. “If we didn’t have the alumni support, we would not be able to do what we’re doing here.”

Looking forward

While Bartels said students are lucky to have a new space for the college to grow, Higgins said the outlook for the future of the college is “not good” due to not having the ability to be strategic with the cuts.

“You know it’s hard for us to be strategic,” Higgins said. “Because they make the cut and it’s like what’s open … So there’s no time to be strategic, you just have to react. We try to be strategic over a period of time, but you’re playing catchup and never able to do what you really need to do.”

Higgins said he has run a couple different scenarios of possible cuts and none of the scenarios look bright, as they will result in permanent loss of positions.

“I can’t tell you today what positions are going to be cut because when they make the cut I don’t know what positions will be open,” Higgins said. “We’ll just have to wait and see, but we’ll respond to what is given to us.”

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series analyzing the effects of budget cuts on the colleges at Kansas State and their students. Next week’s story will look at the College of Human Ecology.

Hi, I'm Kaitlyn Alanis, former news editor for the Collegian and a May 2017 graduate in agricultural communications and journalism. I have never tried a hamburger and I hate the taste of coffee, but I love writing stories and sharing what I learn with our readers. By writing for the Collegian, I can now not only sing along when the K-State Band plays "The Band is Hot," but I also know that most agriculture students did not grow up on a farm, how to use an AED to save someone's life and why there is a bust of MLK Jr. outside of Ahearn Field House. Thanks for reading!