Archive for Friday, December 10, 2010

Tuition rationale

Kansas higher education officials must make the case that more tuition increases aren’t the way to fund the state’s post-secondary schools.

December 10, 2010, 12:00 a.m. Updated December 10, 2010, 9:31 a.m.


A “model budget” for Kansas crafted by the state’s chapter of Americans for Prosperity earlier this year includes a statement about tuition and higher education that should get the attention of everyone with an interest in the role of state universities in Kansas.

The budget model is getting special attention because one of its authors, Steve Anderson, has been chosen by Gov.-elect Sam Brownback to serve as state budget director. Among other ideas, the plan supports higher tuition at state universities.

Anderson, a certified public accountant from Oklahoma, has done some work for the former Flint Hills Center for Public Policy, which has changed its name to the Kansas Policy Institute. Interestingly, the Kansas Policy Institute highlighted a new study last week from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni noting how much tuition had risen at the state’s two largest universities in recent years. From the 2004-05 school year to the 2009-2010 school year, the report said, tuition at Kansas State University has risen by 29.7 percent while tuition at Kansas University increased by 52.5 percent.

While the Kansas Board of Regents and many Kansas residents are worrying about rapidly increasing tuition making higher education unaffordable for many Kansans, the AFP “model budget” is taking a different tack:

“There is no reason to tax the majority in the state who do not have children attending a state institution in order to subsidize those who do, especially when there is evidence it is the more affluent citizens who are more likely to have children enrolled in higher education,” the document said.

The statement is stunning on a number of levels. First, raising tuition would only aggravate what the AFP plan already sees as a trend toward only affluent Kansans being able to pursue higher education opportunities. It also discounts the benefits the state’s higher education system provides for the state as a whole, such as a well-trained and educated workforce and research-based commercial ventures that help drive the state economy.

If this philosophy is indicative of the direction Kansas budget planning is headed, higher education leaders have their work cut out for them. State universities already are too dependent on tuition to replace reduced state funding.

The Board of Regents and university leaders must make a compelling case to state legislators that individual students shouldn’t have to shoulder more of the cost to operate state universities that benefit the state in many ways. Simply saying that an investment in higher education benefits the state economy isn’t enough. They need to provide solid data to back up that claim.

The purpose of state-assisted universities, community colleges and technical schools is to give a broad spectrum of Kansas residents — not just the affluent elite — an opportunity to pursue post-secondary training and education. That, in turn, prepares those students to become contributing members of the state’s workforce.

It’s a good investment for the state, but especially in the current budget environment, higher education officials can’t assume legislators will buy into that premise without some hard data to back up their claim.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

Let's face it. The Koch brothers have much to gain by decreasing their tax liabilities (to zero, we must presume) by putting Kansans and others Americans on the fast-track in the global race to the bottom. They and their ideological henchmen have but one goal-- that they remain in the top 1/10 of 1% of wealth-holders in the world. Screw everybody else.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 6 months ago

Now, now, bozo. As Leona H said, "Taxes are for little people."

voevoda 7 years, 6 months ago

Thanks, LJW, for taking a stand to defend Kansas students! It's an important first step for the Board of Regents to lobby the state legislature on behalf of the system of public higher education. However, it's not likely to be effective, absent other voices that similarly affirm the shortsightedness of raising tuition and cutting state support. Who should speak up? First, the LJW. Don't let this be the last editorial on the subject. Run frequent stories on accomplishments by KU students and faculty. Tell Mr. Dolph Simons to stop his incessant whining about KU being poorly run--such rhetoric promotes a view that KU doesn't deserve state funding. Second, the students. They are the ones who will be paying a lot more, if Steve Anderson and Americans for Prosperity get their way. When the state legislature comes into session after the New Year, all students who aren't in class or preparing for class need to be amassed in Topeka, peacefully expressing their concerns.
Third, the professors. They need to back their students. They need to state that they don't want just privileged rich kids; they are committed to educating all students who are capable and prepared, regardless of their economic circumstances. Fourth, the Republicans. Anderson and Brownback imply that they are speaking for Republicans in general. If their fellow Republicans repudiate their views, they will need to listen.

George Lippencott 7 years, 6 months ago

I am certain this message is deeply felt. A good education opens doors to the future for those who obtain one. The question I have is how much is enough. We all know that the regents system has seen real increases in revenue over the last decade. While the state contribution has not kept pace with inflation the tuition contribution has increased very substantially.

How much is enough. I would propose that KU and other regent universities be required to propose a 5, 10 and 15% cut with priority on basic education for our Kansas kids. Cuts to travel, meetings and staffing would seem appropriate. Requiring faculty to spend more time in education and less on other pursuits also seems a good idea (not all research is equal). Eliminating duplicate departments across the university system (pork) would also save us money.

In return the legislature should decide exactly what areas that Kansas needs to enhance to improve prospects for the majority. We should reinforce those areas with world class faculty and revert to hiring less expensive faculty for those departments not deemed critical.

We can not continue to increase taxes forever. They fall heaviest on those working for a living. They too have rights – the right to keep enough of what they earn to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

voevoda 7 years, 6 months ago

Moderate, The universities have already experienced serious cuts. To achieve any further cuts, the university would need to fire competent and needed staff, or cut faculty and staff wages. KU faculty already are underpaid compared to their peers, earning about 75% of the national average. KU staff are similarly underpaid. There is no such thing as "less expensive faculty." If KU hires large numbers of cheap temporary lecturers, the quality will plummet. Not only are such individuals less knowledgable and experienced, but they also cannot provide any continuity in educating our students. It's like staffing our K-12 with substitute teachers with temporary certification rather than regular ones.
KU already doesn't pay much towards faculty participation in scholarly meetings. But when faculty attend, they learn a great deal that they bring immediately into their classroom teaching. They also advertise the quality of Kansas institutions--publicity the state badly needs, given the lingering effects of the State Board of Education craziness in past years. KU faculty research enhances the body of knowledge, which results in a higher-quality curriculum. Having an active research agenda is the key to remaining up-to-date in knowledge. It's also essential to teaching students how to do research, because the research process changes rapidly with changing technology. We shouldn't want faculty who don't do research--any more than we'd want pastors who don't pray.
Is there room for savings? Maybe to a small extent. Duplicative programs are reasonable targets. Higher entrance requirements for the 4-year universities would save costs, too. A well-educated workforce in Kansas will ultimately generate higher salaries, and therefore more tax revenue for the state. It's a worthwhile investment.

George Lippencott 7 years, 6 months ago


Pabulum. The universities have NOT SEEN serious cuts. The state contribution has increased but at less than inflation. The tuition component has increased much faster than inflation. Go look the data up as I have.

The baseline is last years funding not some new level set by the various universities that is than used to argue they have been cut. The system is doing a lot better than the rest of us.

The rest of my comments are certainly open to debate. Maybe it is time for faculty quality to suffer a bit. Make the case for the quality level (salary levels) we have now.

I want faculty to educate kids. A little research that pays for itself is fine. Research into things of academic interest that returns nothing may just be a luxury we can no longer afford. 5% on research and 95% on kids!!! I challenge you to show just how much research makes it into basic courses.

I relent a bit at the post baccalaureate level. Research does help - but I think the university has a duty to justify to the rest of us what it is doing. Business as usual must end when it comes to money.

The average Kansas family makes about $60K. The average faculty member makes close to $100K. I do not think we can continue to afford this difference.

voevoda 7 years, 6 months ago

Moderate, Very few faculty make anything close to $100 K, even when they reach retirement age. The starting salary at KU--at the high end in this state--is about $45,000--and most faculty enter with substantial educational loans to pay off and they have lost 5-6 years of wage-earning. Is the "average" of all faculty salaries in the state (including community colleges) over $60,000? Possibly, but not much. (I haven't calculated it, but if you're interested, you can; the information is public record.) How does it compare to non-faculty in the state who have advanced degrees? Considerably lower! Most KU faculty teach both undergraduates and graduate students. So that means, by your logic, that they do need to do research!
And if you attend classes at KU regularly, you'll see lots of current research making its way into undergraduate courses. Nearly all the research KU faculty do is readily available to the public. All you need do is come to campus and read it in the library.

George Lippencott 7 years, 6 months ago

voevoda (anonymous) replies

The $100K number comes from the universities report to the regents on pay (not total costs) of a continuing faculty member.

The rest applies to anybody who went to college. Why do you feel that your problem is any worse than anybody elses???

voevoda 7 years, 6 months ago

Moderate, The $100K figure is for salary and benefits. The average salary at KU is $88K, and it is the highest in the state. At the other 4-year Regents universities, the average ranges from $55K to $72K. That's leaving out the faculty at the community colleges altogether, and they are paid much less. So I'll stand by my guess of $60,000 as a statewide average faculty salary.(This information is from the AAUP, which publishes an annual report on faculty salaries nationwide.) It is not uncommon for faculty to have educational loans not only from their undergraduate years, but also from graduate school, sometimes even approaching 6 figures. They have, on average, 10+ years of schooling, rather than 4. Then enter the workforce at age 29-30 rather than age 22. So yes, they have some additional costs, and they earn less, in general, than similarly-degreed persons in the private sector. Does the state need to economize? Yes. But before I'd touch higher education, the state ought to stop wasting money tilting at windmills. Stop harassing women's health care providers. Don't enter into frivolous lawsuits against the Federal government, over health insurance reform, or illegal immigrants, etc. Don't waste money forestalling non-existent "voter fraud" by requiring picture IDs, and all the concommittant equipment and training necessary for poll workers to discern fake IDs from real ones. Don't waste money enacting admendments to the state constitution to outlaw gay marriage. If that's not enough to balance the budget, raise taxes on the megarich, like the Kochs and their ilk, who aren't hurting. Why should their tax rate be no higher than that of the modest, two-wage-earner middle class household? If that's still not enough, get rid of the frivolous tax exemptions, such as those for high-end hunting expeditions and for male enhancement drugs. Moderate, you seem to have a particular animosity against university faculty. Why?

George Lippencott 7 years, 6 months ago

Well we each have our opinion on what is important. Maybe by challenging Obama care we can force the feds to pay more of it so we are not forced to raise taxes for another unfunded mandate. The rest I agree WITH you BUT DOUBT significant costs will be avoided if we did or did not mess with those issues.

I might point out that the majority of Kansans agree with some of those - we are different here in Lawrence. If we make too much noise we may find ourselves under pressure to reduce costs at KU beyond what might be a smart voluntary move.

I also totally agree as to making our income tax more progressive. Actually testified before the tax committees to that end. Fat chance. Even if we did I doubt we will see much more income from that source - just are not enough Koch’s to go around.

I accept your salary numbers as that is the average for KU (said $90K) and salary. I rounded. I am after the flagships and not the community colleges. My point stands for KU.

Why should higher education get more? Secondary needs funding, so does Medicaid and other social services. Raise those taxes and let the little people pay more for the elites.

As seems always to be the argument by advocates we hear of doom if we do not provide more. I would bet that absolutely nothing significant would happen if we reduced tuition for post secondary by 10%. Just about any organization can take that and lose nothing of consequence particularly after a decade of increases.

You know that in many professions self improvement (read research of interest and not of return) is absorbed by the individual with their own money and their own time. Think teachers.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.