College of Arts and Sciences considers additional fee amid ‘small percentage’ budget cuts

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(Graphic by Audrey Hockersmith)

Budget cuts of 2 and 3 percent may seem like a small cut for the College of Arts and Sciences, the largest college on Kansas State’s campus, which has a general use budget of around $64 million.

Amit Chakrabarti, interim dean of the college, said this is simply not true and it does in fact hurt the college more so than others because of how big a reach the college has.

“This college is the academic center of the university,” Chakrabarti said. “Every student that graduates from K-State will take at least a course in this college, so that’s our impact.”

Chakrabarti was named the interim dean of the college in February and had a “three-day honeymoon” before the reality of the cuts hit him and his college.

“I sometimes joke around by saying I was selected for this job on Feb. 9 and had a great Feb. 9 and a great Feb. 10, but then Feb. 11 came the first budget cut,” Chakrabarti said. “Honeymoon over.”

The “honeymoon” ended with a 3.5 percent cut, equaling a reduction of $2.1 million from the college’s budget. But it did not stop there, Chakrabarti said.

The college then suffered a 3.8 percent internal reallocation, resulting in another cut of $2.2 million.

“Within a few months, $5 million of my budget disappeared,” Chakrabarti said. “This amount of money sounds like a small thing, like 2 and 3 percent. But you have to remember most of our budget goes to people. And so how do you cut (our) base budget?”

Bare-boned budget

The college and its departments have three choices, Chakrabarti said, when choosing how they would deal with the cuts, all resulting in a “bare-boned” budget.

The college can reduce operating expenses by removing telephone lines from offices and reducing copying and printing use, cut its graduate programs or cut temporary staff and faculty.

While the dean’s office absorbed 2.5 percent of the cuts, the departments felt the effects of the rest of the cuts, Chakrabarti said.

“It’s killing us,” Chakrabarti said. “It directly affects our students’ education. Our budget is bare-boned.”

Chakrabarti said some of his departments have had to completely cut their graduate teaching programs and reduce their operating expense budget to just $1.

As a whole, class sizes are becoming larger, recitations and studios are growing and fewer classes will be offered, Chakrabarti said.

These effects, Chakrabarti said, will lead to late graduation becoming a risk for students.

Brett Sitts, senior in political science and president of the Arts and Science’s Student Ambassador program, said it has been frustrating to see the effects of budget cuts on his college.

“My professors are agitated,” Sitts said. “They can’t print as much, they are limited on resources; it is just frustrating.”

Handling the cuts

In an attempt to offer students the best educational experience possible despite a $5 million cut, Chakrabarti said he is considering proposing a $10 per-credit-hour student fee increase, but not until after working with student ambassadors and senators to hear their perspectives and reactions.

“It’s in the very early stages,” Chakrabarti said.

Sitts said he was just informed last week about the possibility of a new fee and while he is not necessarily happy with the fee, he understands that it is justified.

“I’m not happy, but (a fee increase) would be fair,” Sitts said.

Aaron Crotinger, senior in public relations, said he feels the fee would be justified.

“Well, as long as we get our copier back, that is,” Crotinger said.

Sitts said the fee will not affect him because he is graduating, but he hopes the fee can add more emphasis for graduate student stipends and research.

“We have to protect the students’ education being threatened by budget cuts,” Chakrabarti said.

For this reason, Chakrabarti said he is hopeful he can work with the college’s student leaders to find a solution that would not add too much of a financial burden for his students, but would still allow the college to operate to its full potential.

Editor’s note: This is the sixth 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 Education.

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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!