As a result of the Kansas Board of Regents’ decision to keep tuition flat for in-state undergraduate students, budget cuts will reach nearly every corner of Kansas State. Whether and how students feel the effects of those cuts is up to division leaders.
The proposal that was originally brought before the board in May requested a 3.1 percent increase for all students except for Veterinary Medicine tuition, which opted to not increase its tuition. However, the board asked K-State and other universities proposing tuition increases to rework their proposals in consideration of restored funding from the state.
This funding restored $6.5 million dollars to state universities from the funding cuts of fiscal year 2017, provided the board with a $15.7 million grant to distribute to universities and provided universities more than $10 million for employee pay adjustments.
In June, K-State returned to the board with a tuition proposal to increase tuition by a rate of 1.5 percent for undergraduate and graduate students, resident and non-resident.
In reworking the proposal, budget callbacks were made university-wide. These cuts came in at 3.9 percent for colleges and 4 percent for administrative units, provost Charles Taber said.
Whether students feel the effects of these budget cuts is up to division leaders.
“I would say in this year, we’ve done everything we can to protect student-facing services,” Taber said. “Where students may feel these effects is, if you think about how a college … is going to deal with a 3.9 percent budget cut. They may have to reduce their support for instructional faculty, obviously not tenure-track, but other folks who may be teaching course sections and, I don’t know if this is the case, but you could see some reduced offerings in some of the colleges because of that.”
Another option that colleges may opt to decrease spending with is reducing support for graduate students.
In June, however, the board decided to hold tuition flat for resident undergraduate students at all state universities.
The Board has voted to hold undergraduate tuition flat for Kansas residents at all state universities in Fiscal Year 2020.
— KS Board of Regents (@ksregents) June 19, 2019
To adjust for the $1.8 million in lost tuition revenue as a result of the board’s decision, Taber said the university has made further budget reductions targeting specific units.
“What we ultimately decided to do was instead of spreading the pain that we would do targeted reductions,” Taber said. “So, we targeted several units that we believe, at least in the short run, can survive these cuts.”
These units include the Polytechnic, Olathe and Global campuses, K-State Research and Extension, Veterinary Medicine and the Institute for Commercialization, which is an economic development project dedicated technology-based enterprises.
“Now, the specifics of how they will react to those cuts is not — I’m not micromanaging that,” Taber said. “It’s up to the leaders in all those areas. They’ll have to make decisions about how they’ll deal with those cuts.”
In making targeted budget cuts to these units, the university has tried to protect student-facing services, scholarships, staff and faculty salaries and benefits and strategic enrollment initiatives.
“We are prioritizing investment in new enrollment management strategies, the lifeblood of our university,” reads a letter from university president Richard Myers that was published in the July 1 edition of K-State Today.
This includes $2.1 million for a “revamped” scholarship program, $1.3 million for “accelerated marketing efforts” and recruiters in out-of-state markets supported by “robust” marketing campaigns.
Taber said he does not think the 1.5 percent increase that the board allowed for non-resident undergraduates will affect out-of-state recruitment or enrollment very much due to the adjusted tuition policy rolled out last spring, which offers students from Arkansas, California, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas tuition at 150 percent of what resident students pay.
In addition to the five new states, K-State offers the same discounted tuition rate to nine other states as part of the Midwest Student Exchange Program.
Since in-state tuition is not increasing this year, neither will tuition for students from those states.
However, as a land grant institution, the effects of these budget cuts may reach farther than K-State campuses and students, said Ethan Erickson, K-State’s chief financial officer and director of budget planning.
“We provide services not just to educate our students here on this campus, but we provide research and extension support to Kansas families, farmers, communities and so we have to adjust all of that next year, and prudently so,” Erickson said. “So, a lot of people, not just across Manhattan, not just the students, a lot of people across Kansas are going to feel the impact.”
Taber and Erickson said the board’s reasoning to hold resident undergraduate tuition flat while increasing tuition for graduate students and non-resident undergraduates combined two factors. One was a desire to keep tuition rates lower for resident students.
“When we first presented our 3.1 percent plan, the Board asked me why weren’t we increasing this more on out-of-state students,” Taber said. “I think it’s tied up in the belief that we’re serving residents primarily and that should be our focus rather than out of state students.”
Taber also explained the board’s reasoning behind allowing a tuition increase for graduate students, saying there is a belief that graduate students are more poised for professional jobs in the future with higher earning potential.
The second factor driving the board’s decision was a read of the political landscape.
“Their belief is that there really is a connection between the restoration of funds by the legislature and the governor and a reduction in tuition and the hope that next year, which we’re completely on board with this, that we’ll be able to get more dollars back from the state next year,” Taber said.