Counseling Services seeks privilege fee increase

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An increase in the frequency and severity of student visits combined with salary challenges necessitate an increase in the Counseling Services privilege fee allotment, the program’s director Dan Larson told the Privilege Fee Committee Monday evening.

In his presentation, Larson said staffing shortages created a backlog of students seeking service that reached a peak of 90 students on Nov. 3 of last year. At Kansas State, that backlog means a wait time of four to six weeks before students receive care.

Larson said Counseling Services has a staff-to-student ratio of 1 to 2,300, ranking seventh out of nine Big 12 schools that reported data. Larson said this is a conservative estimate, as the figure only included students at K-State’s Manhattan campus.

For comparison, Baylor has 22 staff for a student enrollment of 16,000 — resulting in a staff to student ratio of 1 to 768. The International Association of Counseling Services recommends a ratio of 1 staff member per 1,500 students.

Staff shortages are accompanied by salary challenges and an increase in urgent visits. According to Larson’s report, Counseling Services saw 1,242 students seeking urgent care in the fiscal year 2017 compared to 485 in the fiscal year 2014. This amounts to a 156 percent increase.

Currently, Counseling Services pays psychologists with one to three years of experience a salary of about $54,000, about $4,000 less than the industry average. Larson said this hurts his efforts to recruit psychologists.

Larson is seeking a five percent increase over the course of three fiscal years, the standard length of a privilege fee renewal cycle, to help offset potential future decreases in state funding and offer more competitive salaries to recruit staff.

Counseling Services will receive $728,943 through the end of fiscal year 2018, but under Larson’s proposal, Counseling Services would receive $765,390 in fiscal year 2019, $803,660 in fiscal year 2020 and $843,843 in fiscal year 2021. This amounts to an average increase of $38,300 each year.

Larson said a higher salary would help increase morale and reduce staff turnover, which would help the service in terms of stability and allow Counseling Services to develop and grow its programs. Additional staff would also help reduce the wait a student undergoes before meeting with a Counseling Services staff member.

Changes in staffing have resulted in what Larson estimates will be a reserve account of about $408,000 at the end of the fiscal year. However, he said Counseling Services realistically only needs about $200,000 in reserve and that he would use the additional funds to complement the potential increase in privilege fee money.

Counseling Services is in the midst of a move to Lafene Health Center from its current location after a decade-long promise that the English Department would one day have its own building. The move, originally planned to have occurred over winter break, was delayed to the summer to allow renovations to be completed at the new location and to minimize student disruptions, Larson said in a K-State Today release.

Last semester, the Privilege Fee Committee recommended an increase for the Fine Arts privilege fee and recommending to deny an increase and instead grant a continuance to the Collegian Media Group, with subsequent votes in the general senate confirming the committee’s recommendations in both cases.

KSDB-FM’s request for an increase late last semester was also initially rejected, amid contentious debate in the committee. Further reflection on the committee’s part, though, resulted in a reconsideration to instead recommend a continuance. The senate will vote on that recommendation this Thursday.

Several of the committee’s members have expressed a strong desire to remain fiscally conservative with the privilege fee allocations amid increasing tuition and a smaller pool of privilege fee money, as a result of decreasing enrollment in recent semesters.

The committee will meet Monday at 7 a.m. in the SGA conference room to ask Larson more questions on Counseling Service’s proposal.

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Rafael Garcia
I'm Rafael Garcia, and I'm a 2019 K-State graduate in journalism and former editor-in-chief of the K-State Collegian. I believe that much of the world's problems come from a lack of understanding of other people, but by telling other people's stories and finding the good in the world, I think we can increase our understanding and appreciation of each other. Questions, comments, concerns, news tips? Email the Collegian team at news@kstatecollegian.com.