Archive for Sunday, November 14, 2010

Case closed?

The situation with differential tuition may not be as rosy as a KU audit would like to paint it.

November 14, 2010


It really isn’t surprising that an audit report compiled by Kansas University has concluded that the $76 million in differential tuition funds that KU has spent over the last eight years has been used appropriately and greatly benefitted KU students.

The audit, which was ordered after a group of KU MBA students questioned the use of differential tuition funds in the School of Business, examined the process, priorities and expenditures of each KU school that charges the special fees. Although the university is satisfied with the answers they received in each of those categories, other people may not agree.

In the “process” category, the audit looked at how schools went about establishing differential tuition, with a special emphasis on how they sought student input on the fees. In most cases, the school depended on input from student advisory boards or perhaps a handful of student meetings. The School of Engineering, for instance, cited “consultation with student organizations, faculty and various external advisory boards.” What form that “consultation” took or how many students were involved is unknown.

Under “priorities,” schools outlined how they planned to use their additional tuition money. New equipment and additional faculty were popular priorities for the school. Additional advising services and scholarships also were mentioned by several schools. (Shouldn’t schools be seeking additional scholarship money from private donors rather that collecting it from other students through higher tuition?) In all cases, the “priorities” were broad or vague enough to cover about anything the schools’ leadership would want to use the money for.

That brings us to the expenditures. The KU audit report provided an impressive list of programs, equipment, facilities, course offerings and other improvements that were funded through differential tuition and enhance the educational experience of KU students. It’s hard to tell from the spreadsheets they provided exactly which improvements were funded specifically by differential tuition.

The KU press release indicated that differential tuition has raised $76.3 million since 2003. However, that’s actually what the report said was the amount of differential tuition expenditures. The amount that was paid in differential tuition appears to be much larger. The accounting provided by the schools shows that some schools carried over more than $1 million in differential tuition for fiscal year 2011. The School of Engineering has accumulated $1.02 million during the six years it has charged differential tuition. The School of Business is carrying over $1.25 million.

Apparently anticipating questions about those carryovers, an asterisked note at the bottom of each budget spreadsheet informs the reader: “The carry forward amount each year should not be construed as a budget surplus. Carry forwards are common, responsible budgetary practice.”

Perhaps, but it also suggests that KU may not really need as much differential tuition money as it is collecting. Differential tuition rates were rising by 4 percent each year until FY 2008, when increases rose to 6 percent each year. KU officials justify those raises as keeping pace with overall tuition raises at the university, but why must the two rise together? It would make more sense to hold down differential tuition when students are facing overall tuition increases.

According to the KU audit, differential tuition is a big success. That certainly is the message KU officials want to send to the Kansas Board of Regents who must sign off each year on the special fees. Despite the rosy picture the audit paints, the case in favor of differential tuition doesn’t seem entirely closed.

The entire university has benefited from the courage, tenacity and knowledge demonstrated by the business school MBA students who exposed questionable practices including terrible accounting and the lack of oversight by the dean and senior university officials.


justmytwocents 7 years ago

oh, puhlease. you wanted an audit, you got an audit. but nope, you still aren't happy.

mysterion 7 years ago

No, we asked an audit, we got a review instead.... not the same thing, no where near the same detail, no where near the same quality. This program and its accounting practices could not have passed the rigors of a full audit.

Kendall Simmons 7 years ago

And you factually know it couldn't have

Phillbert 7 years ago

Even as the LJW's news coverage shrinks and shrinks, Dolph still gets as much room as he wants for his anti-KU rants. At this rate it won't be long before the paper is just a single section consisting of nothing but KU men's basketball coverage and Dolph columns.

Thunderdome 7 years ago

When KU administration stops giving him a reason to comment, I am sure Mr. Simons will move on to other issues. There is a place for differential tuition, but not in the manner it has been administered and managed by Business School administration.

Phillbert 7 years ago

You clearly don't know anything about your friend and his penchant for using anything - and nothing - as a justification to bash KU for the sin of not naming him chancellor.

Kendall Simmons 7 years ago

How would you know KU is doing anything wrong in this case? If your primary source for this opinion is Dolph's rants, you really need to take a step back. He no longer cares about the facts. Just the opinions of him and his cranky friends...none of whom are in a position of being "in the know'.

It's sad, really.

Thunderdome 7 years ago

Bob - You posted on a different topic that "blind adherence to anything is bad." If you think students should blindly follow administrators who stacked the deck on the review, then you are violating your own paradigm.

Kendall Simmons 7 years ago

No one said the students should blindly follow anything. But when Dolph calls them courageous for doing what students have been doing regularly since at least the 60s, he's getting awfully carried away with the rhetoric. (Surprise, surprise.)

carrottop 7 years ago

I'm just an old dude, but we used to have a saying back in my day, "Question Authority." Seems to me that these students know this situation better than the rest of us onlookers. Students- if this review/audit/whatever stinks to you, then you have to keep questioning. Just do it respectfully. As for my fellow bloggers who are out here scolding these students anonymously from the comfort of your superior stations in life, keep in mind that this is their battle and not yours. I have to think that at least some of you were with me when we were questioning things and raising hell for the greater good. Do you see the irony? Realize that you don't know all the facts and you haven't been in these students shoes. If you can't be supportive, at least get out of the way. If you don't care for the LJW, stop reading it. I know I do from time to time.

Kendall Simmons 7 years ago

As a 60's hippie, even then I realized that, to be honest, we students didn't always know or understand a situation. Didn't always know the right and/or best thing to do.

Sometimes...gasp...we were wrong! Though I've always believed it was darned good that we asked and demanded answers.

But, at least back in Boston, there almost always seemed to be at least one "angry young man" who just wouldn't give it a rest. Who would much rather throw the baby out with the bathwater. Who thrived on rage, not solutions. Who was a 'great quote', but who always made it harder, if not impossible, to actually get things done. Who, even if we got everything we asked for and more, was still dissatisfied.

Regardless, it seems to me that posters here and their comments are FAR more focused on Dolph than they are on the students. Because Dolph apparently isn't interested in the facts himself...just in ragging on the KU administration.

Heck. I'll bet if we looked at the World Company books, we'd see carryovers. Indeed, one could easily argue it would be fiscally irresponsible to not have them.

Oh...and what I find ironic is that you're telling us that this isn't our battle...only the students (as if it's just students who shell out tuition dollars!) we should just shut up and keep out of it.

But that's the EXACT OPPOSITE of the message we were trying to get across back in "your days".

The message was - and still is - that we're all in this together... and all affected not just by Vietnam and civil rights issues from the 60s but also current issues like civil rights for all, protecting our only environment and so we should ALL care!

And to think that middle-aged and older people were not involved and were not important back then? were young. You really didn't know everything :-)

Thunderdome 7 years ago

There's a difference between protesting, waving the peace sign and smoking a lot of weed and pouring over seven years worth of budgets to identify where your hard earned cash is going. The fact is that students have submitted more comprehensive data to administration than is contained in the BKD report. But because it was student derived, it was dismissed. In this retaliatory environment, it has taken a certain amount of courage.

BillyGoat 7 years ago


You're not a student and yet you seem to claim a lot of knowledge about the students' data being more "comprehensive" than the audit's data, the business school's "retaliatory environment", and many other issues. One of the problems many of us have with the Editor’s columns is that they are often based upon his “deep throat”, backroom conversations with unnamed sources that he claims as “knowledgeable” or “influential” insiders, etc. The Editor certainly is in a position to talk to people of significance at KU and I’m sure he does. But he then generalizes his “survey of one” (e.g., one faculty member) to the entire population (e.g., all faculty members). As such, readers of his column should discount much of what he says. Similarly, you’re not walking the halls with the students, so why should we give credence to your descriptions of life and activities within the business school?

KU_cynic 7 years ago

Of course Thunderdome is a student. His/her commentary starts on the subject of the b-school differential tuition, and nearly every subsequent comment is on that subject. Not satisfied with working through channels at KU - including the provost's office -- he/she uses the comment boards to anonymously pump up this story through innuendo and rumor-mongering.

Reading t-dome's postings -- or Dolph's columns, one would think that there is a vast conspiracy involving b-school staff and faculty, the provost's office, and the independent firm hired to conduct an audit of b-school expenditures. I'm not saying the b-school didn't make mistakes -- mostly in the dimension of public and student relations -- but as the audit report indicates expenditures that appear to deviate from the differential tuition plan have been trivial.

It's time to move on, but these dissident MBA students and the rumor-mongering newspaper heir Mr. Simons don't seem to want to let this go for what I can only infer are narcissistic motives.

Kendall Simmons 7 years ago

Well said, BillyGoat!

However, based on his columns, I'm not even convinced that Dolph really is in a position to talk to people of significance at KU anymore. I don't mean that he can't talk to them...period. (Although I wouldn't bet $ that they always return his phone calls.)

Rather, I question his access to people with current 'insider information' who are also his confidants.

Now, he may very well talk with a "big" athletic donor or two who complains about not getting what he expected for his donation (and I don't mean expecting a good football team :-).

But donors shouldn't really expect to be keep in the loop about everything going on in Strong Hall any more than the Journal-World should expect to be privy to private internal business conversations at the paper company that supplies them with newsprint.

Frankly, based on his own words, I think Dolph's access has become a LOT more limited than he'd like us to believe.

booyalab 7 years ago

I'm confused. Aren't not-for-profit institutions vastly more efficient and beneficial for the community since they are motivated by their love for children and all that is pretty and/or shiny? As opposed to for-profit institutions who are motivated by bags of money and the desire to pollute and therefore are the most wasteful and cancerous entities in the universe?

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