Kansas Board of Regents, K-State work to lower tuition costs and degree requirements

Student success at Kansas State University is being challenged with the taxing demands of credit hours at different schools, including engineering and music education. (Archive Photo by Evert Nelson | Collegian Media Group)

As enrollment rates continue to decrease and tuition costs rise, the Kansas Board of Regents is looking at university programs. In their search, they discovered that a lot of programs exceeded the required minimum of 120 credit hours to graduate in Kansas with a bachelor’s degree. With lower-aid students in mind, the Board approved a plan last year to help students achieve degrees quicker and at a lower cost.

“[The board] asked why most degree programs were at over 120 hours in order to graduate,” Brian Niehoff, associate provost, said. “They wanted us to try and push the required credit hours down to 120 credit hours.”

Niehoff said from there, the idea was pushed out to the different colleges and departments.

“The majority of them came back saying ‘You know we could carve out a bit here or there,’” Niehoff said. “There were a lot of programs that were already at 124 hours so changing or getting rid of one class or so wasn’t too much of a challenge for them.”

The entire curriculum change has been roughly a two-year process. That being said, Kansas State University still has programs above the targeted 120 credit hours.

“We have around 15 to 17 programs that are still above 120 credit hours,” Neihoff said. “But some of those are in the College of Engineering, or accredited programs that require certain things in order to get a full degree.”

Those students studying to receive a bachelor’s in music education are in one of these higher credit hour programs.

“The bachelor’s of music education degree results in K-12 music licensure from the State of Kansas,” Jeffrey Ward, director of the school of music, theatre and dance, said.

Ward said the licensure is vital to music education students because, upon completion, program-completers have a spectrum of coursework in wind and percussion instruments, vocal, string and general music.

“We have developed a curriculum that consists of a core of music fundamental courses, instrument and voice technique courses to provide faculty in all instrument families and pedagogy courses for a variety of ages,” Ward said via email.

K-State is an accredited university by the National Association of Schools for Music. Meeting the accreditation standards, this requires music education students to acquire a 12-credit student teaching internship, on top of their overall course work, to meet the licsensure requirements in Kansas prior to graduation.

Looking toward the future, universities will not see decreases past the typical 120 credit hour requirement to complete certain degree plans.

“We can’t go lower than 120 credit hours,” Niehoff said. “In order to be able to stream nationally, you must have 120 hours. I believe it’s also a federal guideline.”

Niehoff added that programs are working hard to make all curriculum revisions.

“We still have some that are implementing the change and making revisions, but they should all be complete in the next bit of time,” Niehoff said. “They have all handled the change in different ways; some of them have decided to take it out of general education courses and others have taken it out of electives.”

As a short-term goal for K-State, Niehoff said that keeping a handle on the new changes and trying to keep all departments at the 120 credit hours will be beneficial in the future.

“Being cognizant of what the effect is on our students and their budgets is what we are trying to look after,” Niehoff said. “Ultimately we don’t want to put students in a situation where they have to take more credit hours than what they actually need.”