Dean of Engineering makes case for proposed course fee increase

The proposed fee increase is coming on the heels of another similar $15 fee increase that was passed for the College of Engineering last year. (Archive Photo | Collegian Media Group)

During the Tuition and Fees Strategies Committee meeting on Tuesday evening, Dean of Engineering Darren Dawson, alongside the engineering department heads, made the case for and answered questions regarding the proposed $15 per credit hour fee increase.

The fee would generate an estimated $918,000 in recurring funds for graduate teaching assistant compensation to free up money from the University Engineering Initiative Act grant, which ends in three years. Funds will also be used for undergraduate lab improvements.

The proposed fee increase is coming on the heels of another similar $15 fee increase that was passed for the College of Engineering last year. Dawson said the new fee increase centers on adding value to undergraduate students’ experience and recruitment.

By improving the undergraduate experience with lab renovations, “we become more competitive with other engineering colleges in regard to recruiting faculty and students,” Dawson’s presentation read.

“When you think about it, when you improve the quality of an undergraduate education program, what it’s about is your ability to recruit faculty and students, at least from an administrative standpoint,” Dawson said. “If you have trouble recruiting students, you’ll have trouble recruiting faculty.”

Questions compiled during last week’s TFSC meeting prompted Dawson to go into more detail on how Kansas State University competes with other universities —including the University of Kansas and Wichita State University — in terms of degree costs with scholarships factored in.

But doing so is complicated due to a lack of information, as most universities, including K-State, do not usually divulge that information, Dawson said.

The college tuition committee was particularly interested in how K-State compares to Wichita State, but Dawson said the two schools don’t really line up as Wichita State is neither a division one nor research tier one school.

“To compare our College of Engineering at Kansas State with Wichita State is really kind of like comparing a watermelon to an orange,” Dawson said. “The comparison will generate no useful information.”

Engineering department heads also shared details on how undergraduate labs in their departments would be updated using UEIA grant money: increasing server capacities and upgrading hardware for computer sciences, creating a lab for the new biomedical engineering major and providing new equipment for industrial and manufacturing engineering, among others.

“We have equipment that your grandfathers would have thought was old,” said Bradley Kramer, head of the department of industrial and manufacturing systems. “It’s 1930s, 1940s equipment, and we need to significantly renovate that so we can manufacture using modern materials and processes. That would be the bare bones, and from there we have plans to integrate that laboratory even more fully into classes and the curriculum.”

If the fee fails to pass, Dawson said he will come back to the tuition committee with the same proposal next year.

“If it doesn’t pass next year, we will bring it back the next year and we will continue to bring it back all the way until the end of the UEIA cycle,” Dawson said.

Chase Brokke, junior in industrial engineering, said he has mixed feelings on the fee.

“At this point in time, I feel like making a decision is two bad decisions of either draining the students or lowing the accessibility of the degree, or putting the whole college in the path of deteriorating in a very real sense,” Brokke said. “There’s a lot of things like the GTAs or the labs that if we didn’t fund … bad things could happen with a lot of things. It’s just kind of like two bad sides to it. I don’t like the fee at all — trying to increase the fee for students. It’s tough to put on students.”

There will be a student forum to discuss the fee on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in room 1109 in the Engineering Complex.

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.