Archive for Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Higher education leaders discuss possible enrollment cap

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little attended the Kansas Board of Regents retreat on Wednesday in Wichita. In the foreground is Washburn University President Jerry Farley. The regents worked on numerous issues, including funding, research and admissions requirements.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little attended the Kansas Board of Regents retreat on Wednesday in Wichita. In the foreground is Washburn University President Jerry Farley. The regents worked on numerous issues, including funding, research and admissions requirements.

August 26, 2009


— Higher education officials Wednesday pushed back hard at the prospect of more budget cuts, and said they may have to cap enrollment at their institutions.

The comments came from several state college presidents during a retreat of the Kansas Board of Regents.

At the end of the discussion, regents members said they would try to present a unified message to the public and Legislature that more budget cuts would do serious damage to higher education in Kansas.

Regent Dan Lykins said Kansans need to be outraged about higher educations cuts as much as they would be outraged if Kansas University announced it was reducing basketball scholarships.

“It’s got to be something that will hit home immediately,” Lykins said.

Because of falling tax revenue, the Legislature and Gov. Mark Parkinson have cut higher education by $100 million, nearly 12 percent during the past year.

Republican legislative leaders have raised the possibility of more cuts when the legislative session starts in January and have vowed not to increase taxes.

“Its pretty clear we’re going to continue to be in a really difficult budget climate,” said Regents President and Chief Executive Officer Reginald Robinson. He said higher education faces “the real prospect of additional state general fund cuts before the end of the fiscal year.”

But the university chiefs said the current cuts have already damaged campuses and further cuts would make the situation worse.

“I think we ought to talk about an enrollment cap,” said Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz.

Emporia State University President Michael Lane said he was considering limiting the number of students at his campus. He said the reduced funding also hurts retention and graduation rates because students are not getting the kind of close attention they need.

Lane predicted some lawmakers will “punish” schools twice by cutting funds and then complaining about graduation rates.

Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, who assumed office this month, said further reductions in funding could affect the KU School of Nursing and how many nursing students could be accepted since accreditation requires a certain faculty to student ratio. She said the school was not at that point yet but could be if further cuts were enacted.

Regent Gary Sherrer said the regents will try to inform the public and Legislature about the negative effects of budget cuts. The cuts have been especially harmful to community colleges and technical schools, which are also seeing large student increases, officials said.

“You think it’s automatic that your child will go to Hutchinson Community College? If these cuts don’t stop, it isn’t,” Sherrer said.


KU_cynic 8 years, 4 months ago

This reminds me of the scene from Blazing Saddles when Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) -- surrounded by hostile racists townspeople -- puts his pistol to his own head and says,

Bart: [low voice] Hold it! Next man makes a move, the n** gets it! Olson Johnson: Hold it, men. He's not bluffing. Dr. Sam Johnson: Listen to him, men. He's just crazy enough to do it! Bart: [low voice] Drop it! Or I swear I'll blow this n**'s head all over this town! Bart: [high-pitched voice] Oh, lo'dy, lo'd, he's desp'it! Do what he sayyyy, do what he sayyyy!

[Thanks to for the quotes].

Seriously, while there undoubtedly will be some bottlenecks in the delivery of higher education services owing to reduced resources, most university-level expenses are not variable costs that rise proportionately with the number of students admitted.

When will higher education leaders recognize the reality that the revenue base of Kansas just isn't large enough to fund everything that they are doing, and cut back on marginal programs that are not conspicuous areas of strength and those activities that serve only a small number of students?

Threatening to turn away students while avoiding tough decisions on campus is not leadership.

KU_cynic 8 years, 4 months ago

...for example, KU leaders keep saying that they will have to limit admissions to undergraduate engineering, nursing, and the UKanTeach program to supply vitally needed math and science teachers.

These are vital, valuable programs. Why aren't they being protected and nourished and OTHER less vital and less valuable programs (see my earlier postings for suggestions) being cut to the bone?

That would be genuine leadership in the face of budget realities.

Bob Burton 8 years, 4 months ago


These people have never had a real job, that is why they are incompetent when it comes to running a school!! If they had worked @ a real business the schools would not be in the shape they are now!!

gccs14r 8 years, 4 months ago

Maybe there should be only one university with satellite campuses, and close one of the smaller or more dilapidated schools. The names would change, of course. For example:

University of Kansas KU-Manhattan KU-Wichita KU-Fort Hays etc.

That would save a crapload of money on athletic department budgets, too, since there would be only one basketball team, one football team, one AD, etc.

golfingal 8 years, 4 months ago

I would agree with the above. I find it extremely hard to believe that this conversation has even occurred with all of the slush spending still going on at all of the institutions. If we don't offer every person willing to get an education to better themselves and our state/nation...what will we become??? This is horrible leadership, education should always be the LAST thing to go.

penguin 8 years, 4 months ago

It would not save the money that you might think gccs14r. The setup you propose is similar to how Nebraska runs their university system. Each campus still has the same amount of leadership as their equivalents on the Kansas side. Also each has a athletics department with all those same programs University of Nebraska-Kearney and University of Nebraska-Omaha both play in the MIAA with FHSU, ESU, and etc.

If you look at any state school system that does it in this manner you will find the same setup. Just changing the name and affiliation will not save money in this way.

However, the logic that is flowing through this article is just mind boggling. The state has cut the answer is increase admissions standards and cap total enrollment. The last time I checked, higher attendence=more tuition dollars. All of this talk just sounds like the beginnings of what could be a push for massive tuition increases.

I have never understood the logic of many higher ed officials in their view of tuition. I still remember David Shallenberger telling me "We must increase tuition to bring more money in and this will also ensure more funds from the Legislature." Don't try to think about that too long it might make your head explode.

This belief that you can shame the Legislature into action on higher ed has not worked in the past, but I guess they keep trying it. Well at least if it is harder to get in to the regents schools at least that will push them up in Useless News and World Distort rankings (their number crunchers like that).

gccs14r 8 years, 4 months ago

"Each campus still has the same amount of leadership as their equivalents on the Kansas side. Also each has a athletics department with all those same programs"

It doesn't have to be that way, though. The KU Edwards campus doesn't have an athletic department, for example, and I bet that KSU-Salina doesn't, either. The administrative overhead can be reduced, too. There is no reason to have a President at a satellite campus, or a Provost, or most of the rest of the upper echelon of leadership at what would effectively be just a bunch of buildings with professors in them. There would need to be a Dean, but probably not much above that.

Zachary Stoltenberg 8 years, 4 months ago

Hate to tell you Machiavelli_mania, but all that building and expansion on the athletics side (what I assume you deem as unnecessary) was paid for entirely through private donations. They didn't cost the taxpayers a cent to build. Furthermore, these facilities generate much needed income that DOES in fact go to the school. Look at the whole picture before making such a blanket statement.

penguin 8 years, 4 months ago

Also each of these institutions was built without that in mind. They have always served a purpose of being a satellite. I can guarantee you that there would be alums of each school that would be called the University of Kansas-Manhattan that would end this talk before it was ever proposed in the Legislature. In addition, it would only serve to hurt the other schools if you centralized leadership in this manner.

Sure the satelitte campus works in Edwards because it is close. KSU does ok with both Salina and Olathe. However, it would be awful for the University leadership to be controling situations on the ground in Hays and Pittsburg from Lawrence.

In addition, any savings you had from the Athletic Dept. cuts would be a drop in the bucket compared to what you would lose in donations. The alums of KSU would probably never support the change...and thus pull any donations. The same would most likely occur at all the other regents schools. Recently, FHSU just talked about changing their name to the University of Western Kansas and the reaction was not pretty. Alums/Donors said they would never donate another dollar.

It seems simple to just cut out Athletics and the problems go away and that name changes are easy...but they are not.

MyName 8 years, 4 months ago

Again I am amazed how many experts on how to run a University are wasting their talents on public forums and message boards. Who knew this state had such a languishing talent base?

It's a good thing you all have "real jobs" and know exactly how to run an institution with thousands of employees, serving tens of thousands of students and under constant public scrutiny. Never mind the people who have had decades of experience doing this work at other universities, let's ask the manager at Burger King what he would do, since that's obviously someone with more experience at a "real job" than the people running things at KU.

And, from what I can tell, the reason why they are talking about capping enrollment is because otherwise they won't be able to teach the students as effectively as they can't hire new professors and are having to leave vacancies unfilled. Or we could just have students pay more tuition for a degree that will be worth less than when they came in because in the process of cutting the budget, they are also trashing the academics.

7texdude 8 years, 4 months ago

If we don't offer every person willing to get an education to better themselves and our state/nation…what will we become??? This is horrible leadership, education should always be the LAST thing to go.

OK, this is a fine sentiment, but how we are going to pay for it? I've seen this reaction in every state department that gets its funding cut from social services to education to inmates to road repair, but no one has any ideas how to boost revenue.

People have forgotten the definition of the word "broke." It means we don't have any money to pay for anything. It could get worse. Cuts are painful in every department, but they are necessary. If a student cap is a short-term option then do it. If things improve, then remove it later.

mom_of_three 8 years, 4 months ago

And any other building at KU is probably also partially funded with donations/pledges. And for KU to remain a top institution, we need great facilities.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 4 months ago

No, do not cut out athletics. That is a very important part of what college is all about. You are thinking in terms of dumb jocks who aren't going to do anything with their lives so who cares? A great many athletes have gone on to become doctors, nurses, lawyers, etc. and continued playing a sport after they graduated. Some have gone on to be pros. Players learn how to be part of a team, discipline and commitment and consistency.

kusp8 8 years, 4 months ago

Just a quick aside... most of the buildings are funded through donations.

penguin 8 years, 4 months ago

Most of the construction that has happened recently has been paid for primarily through donations. The only exceptions seem to be fixing or maintaining the structures already on the campus. In fact, the funding for buildings now have to include plans for how the building will be maintained. When the deferred maintenance issue came up a few years back the KSBOR started requiring it as a component of any building proposal.

As for the caps to save the sanctity of education...please. The need to best serve students has not really put a halt on filling class after class with GTAs and Lecturers. I know some GTAs and Lecturers are competent teachers who can perform the task. However, they are often turned to as a cheaper alternative. So unless this call for enrollment caps follows a similar push to increase the time students will interact with faculty then it seems like a weak argument.

At this point there is only two ways to ensure that you increase the revenue at any of the regents universities. You can follow the KU/KSU way or the FHSU way. KU/KSU way involves increasing tuition rates, but at the same time not really changing much. FHSU way involves increasing the enrollment at the school. Most of this growth came through the creation of the Virtual College. However, this growth has allowed the school's enrollment to double without straining facilities and still having actual faculty members run the online portion. Increasing the costs or growth are really the only options out their for the regents schools given the state of Kansas revenues.

Confrontation 8 years, 4 months ago

When did Steve Buscemi get a job at Washburn?

uofk03 8 years, 4 months ago


FHSU benefits from Virtual College because it is in line with their mission: to serve mostly non-traditional students without either the academic ability or financial means to attend a larger state university.

As KU, K-State and Wichita State serve different purposes and more traditional crowds, they would have to (likely) lower the quality of their degree programs should they be taught through something like Virtual College.

ralphralph 8 years, 4 months ago

God forbid that kids have to COMPETE for a spot at college! Oh, the cost in self-esteem!

stuckinthemiddle 8 years, 4 months ago

"These people have never had a real job, that is why they are incompetent when it comes to running a school!! If they had worked @ a real business the schools would not be in the shape they are now!!"

real jobs... like the jobs people have at all the real businesses that have sucked up billions upon billions of tax dollars in bailouts?

good lord...

Godot 8 years, 4 months ago

"Regent Dan Lykins said Kansans need to be outraged about higher educations cuts as much as they would be outraged if Kansas University announced it was reducing basketball scholarships."

Like money, there is only so much outrage to go around. What part of "we are broke" do the regents not understand? Want to see outrage? Just wait til KPERS is reduced to mailing out IOU's instead of checks.

penguin 8 years, 4 months ago

The Virtual College approach is already gaining ground in many ways at KU, KSU, and WSU. The FHSU model I mentioned is administered through Blackboard, which KU has been using for years. The only downside would be the inability for students to interact with faculty...oh wait sounds like many classes. In addition, both KU and KSU already have a pretty good size group of people taking some sort of coursework outside of the "traditional" campus environment KSU=2,868 KU=1,509 at least according to the numbers they hand over to KSBOR.

I am not necessarily promoting the Virtual College approach. My point was simply you either have to grow your student population or increase your tuition to ensure higher revenue for a school.

This cap has nothing to do with real education. Look at the formula Useless News and World Distort uses to come up with their rankings and you will find 15% is based on being tough on selections. This is just another play to move up rankings.

uofk03 8 years, 4 months ago

You have to grow your out of state population to grow your revenue base. In state students' tuition does not cover the full cost of their education. Out of state students cover approximately 150% of theirs.

A cap on enrollment would therefore only work if it capped in state students.

Godot 8 years, 4 months ago

If there were a cap placed on the number of resident students to allow more out of state students, it would no longer be a state university and would be undeserving of any taxpayer support whatsoever.

Cut salaries. Cut travel. Cut benefits. Cut retirement contributions. Cut the layers and layers of administration.

fixx25 8 years, 4 months ago

1) Most (if not all) buildings at the universities are funded through private donations. In 2007, the Board of Regents required those buildings to also include the maintenance portion to be funded by private dollars in the initial investment of the building. This is essentially accomplished through collecting more in donations, so that money collects interest and pays for the maintenance.

2) Raising admissions standards is smart. Our state is the dumping ground for out of state and in-state students who are not prepared yet for a university education. If I were a parent and my kid gradutated and could not get in...I would be asking my K-12 superintendent why my kid graduated but can't be successful in the first year of college. If you are not ready, go to a community college first. They do a much better job of remedial education, anyway.

3) Do you think the universities really want to turn students away? No...but in order to have better graduation and retention rates, the borderline students won't be admitted. That will keep class sizes (where required for grants and accreditation) in check, too.

4) SouthwestKS your comment is a joke. So, maybe if they were an executive first, like maybe at GM or a bank, they would be a better leader? Please...private business loves to yell "no government interferement" until they've screwed stuff up so bad, and then it's "give me the bailout money". University of Missouri system is having the exact same problems (worse, actually) and their CEO is a former private industry CEO.

5) Guess what, that construction that is going on is funding many construction worker salaries in towns...especially the regional university towns (PSU, FHSU, ESU)...right now, those are some of the only jobs in the community. That is private donations going to private companies to help the economy.

6) The universities receive less than 29% from the legislature as a whole. They are not "state supported" any more, but "state-assisted". And, the legislature thinks they can control 100% of their decisions with only 29% of the "pie". Soon they will be "state-affilated" if revenue continues to decline, similar to how the Michigan CEO has commented.

7) Attending a higher education institution is a privledge, not a right. Those that attend should be paying for the cost (i.e. tuition). You don't like it? Can't afford it? Send little Johnny to a community college where he will do better the first two years anyway.

FYI, I don't work for the university...but have benefitted greatly from an education from a university (not KU).

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