At Kansas University, our mission emphasizes our commitment to offering the highest quality undergraduate, professional and graduate programs. Recently some questions have been raised about business programs and the use of course fees, previously known as differential tuition, to support this mission.
In 2004, the Kansas Board of Regents approved a student-driven proposal for course fees. These fees have resulted in substantial academic benefits for students, benefits students told us they wanted and were willing to pay for with course fees. The fees are fully disclosed to students enrolling in the KU School of Business, and through their enrollment, students voluntarily pay them to gain access to a quality business education.
As a result, of the hundreds of programs ranked by U.S. News and World Report, our undergraduate program continued its climb, ranking 28th in the nation among public business schools in the magazine’s current rankings, issued in 2009. This year’s rankings have not yet been released by U.S. News.
By any objective assessment, the KU School of Business has been very diligent in the use of course fees to significantly improve the quality of the business education at KU. Where we have fallen short is in maintaining direct student input into the allocation of those fees and in communicating to students how funds are used. After the proposed program enhancements were implemented, we moved to other ways of informing our students about the use of course fees. We did not ensure that the student advisory committee remained active. We acknowledge these alternatives were not effective and have already taken steps to address these shortcomings.
In late April 2010, we communicated to a group of concerned students our commitment to re-establish the student advisory committee with the return of students to campus this fall.
To broaden transparency and resolve any concerns caused by this lapse in communication, last week I requested an external review of course fees usage. On Friday, July 23, the provost granted my request. I welcome this review and I am confident it will answer the questions that have been raised.
Going forward, I pledge to maintain ongoing communication with our students and other interested parties through the KU School of Business website. Today you can see how course fees are used at http://business.ku.edu/Undergraduate-Tuition-and-Fees.
Criticisms of transparency aside, many of our current business students would not have had the opportunity to enroll in our school had these fees not enabled us to expand our enrollment capacity. Since course fees were approved, undergraduate enrollment has increased 21 percent and our master of accounting program has doubled in size.
Our students now enroll in majors made possible by course fees. Previously, only two majors were available in the school. New majors have been created in finance, marketing, management and leadership, information systems and supply chain management. Over the past five years, approximately 1,600 students graduated with one of these new majors that equip them with skills employers seek.
Offering these new majors required an expansion in course offerings and additional faculty. To provide these academic opportunities and expand our enrollment capacity for students, during the last fiscal year, 56 percent of the $6.5 million received from course fees funded faculty positions and another 9 percent went to academic advisers and career counselors.
The original proposal also included $370,000 to be returned to students in the form of scholarships and assistantships. In 2010, $929,000 in course fees was paid directly to more than 200 business students through scholarships and to almost 250 students employed in the school. This support is significantly more than what was called for in the original proposal.
Course fees give students new opportunities such as our “Jayhawks on Wall Street” and “Xplore” programs that provide funds for students to meet and confer with business executives and helpful alumni in New York, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles. These opportunities result in a significant number of student internships and job offers.
Our international programs and study abroad opportunities have grown as the school has developed its Institute for International Business. Now, nearly half of our full-time graduate students and a third of our undergraduates study abroad through our extended affiliations with universities and companies in France, Italy, Germany, China and India, among others.
A new entrepreneurship program at both the undergraduate and graduate level has been created, while internships, consulting courses and projects, and new venture competitions allow students to apply what they are learning in the classroom to real business situations. Course fees allow the school to offer these and similar experiential learning opportunities across our curriculum.
When the school’s accreditation was extended in 2008, the independent accreditation report praised the school for demonstrating leadership and high quality continuous improvement in management education by providing “a wealth of unique experiences to its undergraduate students, many of which were developed through proceeds of the differential tuition.”
We continue to welcome and encourage student questions and ideas about how these resources can be used to extend even greater benefits to students and continue to improve the quality of a business education at KU.