TFSC: Engineering fee increase would pay graduate assistants, fund lab upgrades

During the 2017-2018 academic year, the College of Engineering provided $816,000 to its GTAs. A $15 fee increase is proposed for the 2019-2020 academic year. (Archive Photo | Collegian Media Group)

The proposed $15 per credit hour fee increase for the College of Engineering will pay for graduate teaching assistant compensation and other amenities if passed, the Tuition and Fees Strategies Committee found during an examination of the fee’s proposal.

During the 2017-2018 academic year, the college provided $816,000 to its GTAs. This money came from a grant provided by the Kansas University Engineering Initiative Act, which encouraged an increased number of engineering graduates at state universities. This grant expires in three years.

The proposal submitted by Darren Dawson, dean of engineering, suggests replacing the money used for GTA compensation with a $15 per credit hour fee increase, which would generate an estimated $918,000 in recurring funds. This in turn would free up nearly $2.45 million over three years from the engineering initiative’s grant to “improve the undergraduate laboratory infrastructure.”

The proposal outlines these improvements for each department in the college, totaling $3.6 million. The college will solicit the remaining $1.15 million from philanthropic sources.

TFSC and the College of Engineering’s tuition committee, consisting of engineering students and student senators, also prepared questions for Dawson to answer during next week’s meeting.

Among these questions: Has the other fee increase from last year achieved its purpose? How will enrollment numbers affect the fee? What’s the priority — the GTA compensation or the lab improvements? What are other state universities doing to prepare for the end of the University Engineering Initiative?

Cindy Bontrager, vice president of administration and finance, did note that there is a possibility for an extension to the initiative funding.

“I definitely think it’s viable that the Regents could request the legislature or the governor for that funding to continue,” Bontrager said. “It’s kind of hard to predict with the new administration, but during prior years, the probability of continuing that is probably low, but I would hope that we at least ask for it to continue.”

Pat Bosco, vice president of student life and dean of students, raised concerns about scholarships and needs-based financial assistance.

“I missed the page about where dollars are going to go toward undergraduate scholarships and needs-based aid,” Bosco said, flipping through the proposal. “Where was that?”

Jordan Kiehl, student body president and senior in industrial engineering, said she didn’t see information in the proposal on that topic.

“So we’re raising fees, and we’re kind of tissuing off larger scholarships of ours, and we’re raising fees in the College of Engineering, and we’re not putting any money toward scholarships for students for this fall, returning students?” Bosco replied. “Must be a mistake or something.”

Bosco expanded on this concern, adding that the university is discontinuing the Putnam Scholarship and that Kansas State University struggles to compete with other universities in terms of financial assistance.

“Comparative cost-wise, we’re fine,” Bosco said. “It’s the fact that the competition is offering scholarships and needs-based assistance that makes it more difficult for our students to go to school. There will be fewer students here. We’ll see that next fall. We saw it last fall. That’s the bottom line. Just saying.”

The fee proposal pits K-State against the competition by evaluating peer institutions’ costs of engineering degrees. It costs an average of $69,724 to earn an engineering degree among the listed universities. At K-State, it costs $52,357 at current tuition and fee rates. At the University of Kansas, it costs $51,774.

If the fee increase is passed, engineering fees will reach $114 per credit hour. This would be nearly double that of the second most expensive academic unit in terms of surcharges, which is the College of Business Administration’s $65 per credit hour fee, and nearly seven times more expensive than the cheapest college, the College of Arts and Sciences, which charges only $16.70 per credit hour.

In the 2015 fiscal year, the College of Engineering only charged $39 per credit hour — a $75 increase, if the proposal passes.

TFSC will meet next week for a presentation from Dean Dawson to address the questions raised in Tuesday’s meeting.

Hey, hi, hello! I’m Rachel Hogan, the copy chief for The Collegian. I’m a senior in journalism from Olathe, Kansas. When I’m not at work in the newsroom, I like to spend my time cuddling with my dog, working as a barista and laughing with my friends.