The College of Engineering tuition committee voted against a $15 per-credit-hour increase on Tuesday night, citing a lack of urgent need and a desire for the college to explore other funding avenues.
The increase would have generated an estimated $918,000 dollars for graduate teaching assistant compensation. It also would have freed up funds from the University Engineering Initiative Act grant currently used for GTAs, instead funneling it toward departmental lab upgrades. The grant expires in three years.
The college tuition committee, composed of engineering students and student senators, first entertained a motion to approve the fee, which failed. Ultimately the committee voted to disapprove of the fee 15-5, with one vote pending due to an absence.
Katharine Kellogg, senior in chemical engineering, voted in favor of the fee due to safety concerns within chemical engineering labs.
In preceding meetings, Kellogg and other students expressed concern for engineering programs’ accreditation standings from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc.
“From what I’ve heard, four departments are in the lowest level of passing,” Kellogg said during the Tuition and Fees Strategies Committee meeting on Feb. 19. “Do we really want to reach the point where we are in danger of losing accreditation?”
However, during the committee’s meeting on Feb. 12, James Edgar, head of the department of chemical engineering, said he “wouldn’t say it’s in danger” of losing its accreditation.
In a message presented at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, Dean Darren Dawson wrote that he thinks it is “highly unlikely” that a program would lose its accreditation.
Sam Pint, senior in mechanical engineering, voted against the fee because he disagreed that it is in the best interest of the students.
“To me, the dean is obviously wanting to get this money to do what he needs to do, which is to run this college,” Pint said. “Of course, he’s always going to want extra money somewhere to be able to put it toward other projects that he needs to solve. So, when he comes to us saying that it’s in the best interest of the students, I just didn’t think that was necessarily true. I think first and foremost, he’s trying to make sure he’s running the college to the best of his ability, but that doesn’t necessarily fall in line with what the students really need and what’s best for them.”
Other students on the committee expressed similar feelings during the meeting’s discussion.
Jonathan Cole, senior in mechanical engineering and student senator, said he would like to see the college push for donations from alumni and corporations to fund lab renovations and wait until the grant comes closer to expiring before instituting a fee increase.
“I’ve had the privilege to talk to incoming students, and they say that this whole entire fee increase is really making them reconsider coming to K-State, and that’s alarming to me because they could easily go to Wichita State or KU,” Cole said.
Previously, Dawson expressed intent in previous meetings to bring the fee back if it did not pass.
The vote, however, is not final.
The vote will be reviewed by the Tuition and Fees Strategies Committee to ensure proper procedure was followed. If it is approved by TFSC, it will pass on to university president Richard Myers as a recommendation before reaching the Kansas Board of Regents for final approval in June.
In 2017, an engineering tuition committee voted against a fee increase, but there was an attempt to pass a modified version of that fee was brought to the board. The attempt ultimately failed.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated that the modified fee brought to the Board of Regents in 2017 passed, but it did not.