Brownback challenges universities to make $15K degree, proposes K-State budget cut

(Graphic by Audrey Hockersmith)

Students might be wishing they waited to attend a Kansas institution after Gov. Sam Brownback challenged institutions across the state of Kansas to develop a bachelor’s degree that would cost only $15,000 in his State of the State address on Jan. 10.

Currently, one semester at Kansas State costs the average 14-credit-hour student $8,411 plus course fees. Based off the 2016-2017 tuition rates, a four-year degree costs about $36,000 in tuition.

For K-State, meeting Brownback’s challenge would require over a 55 percent drop in tuition.

“I trust that Kansas colleges and universities are fully capable to rise to this call,” Brownback said. “Kansans deserve access to an affordable college option.”

As previously reported by the Collegian, this challenge comes after Brownback cut $17 million in state funding to higher education in 2016 due to a $53 million state budget deficit. In March, K-State lost $4.9 million in state funding as a result of this cut.

Jessica Van Ranken, senior in political science and student body president, said she finds this challenge very interesting, but does not understand where Brownback’s idea that this challenge is feasible came from.

“For example, is this idea born out of the idea that universities cut more from their budgets or is it out of the idea that funding sources can grow,” Van Ranken said. “I think it brings up a lot of those questions about how would we make a $15,000 degree possible. I think it would be helpful to know a little bit more about the governor’s vision and how he thinks this would be achievable with the current funding sources for universities.”

Colleges across the university have already been faced with making cuts from their budgets, as seen in the Collegian’s budget cut series featuring how the colleges have dealt with a 5 percent internal callback and the state budget cuts.

“This challenge will be a very difficult thing to do when we have seen the cuts over recent years,” Van Ranken said. “Would we do so from increased funding from the state or private philanthropy?”

Brownback released his budget proposal on Jan. 11, and it does not look as though increased funding from the state is a possibility in K-State’s near future.

The fiscal year 2018 budget for K-State is $95.4 million, which is about $2 million less than the current year.

“I am definitely interested to hear more details about how the governor’s idea for a $15,000 degree would work and I think looking for how that would be feasible is an important thing to do,” Van Ranken said. “I also think in order to make that happen, while preserving a lot of the important education that currently goes on at the universities, more state funding might be needed to make that a possibility.”

Brownback said in his State of the State address that the first institution to complete this challenge will receive 50 scholarships for students who major in the $15,000 degree.

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!