Archive for Sunday, October 3, 2010

Funding out of balance

Kansas legislators should be embarrassed by figures revealed in a recent legislative audit.

October 3, 2010


A legislative audit released on Thursday should be a wakeup call for Kansas lawmakers.

The Legislative Division of Post Audit was asked to look at how many excess credit hours were earned by graduates of state universities in Kansas. The audit was requested after legislators became aware of a Florida study that indicated excess credit hours cost that state about $62 million a year.

Not only did the audit show that lawmakers had no reason to be concerned about excess credit hours at Kansas universities, it also revealed an embarrassing shift in the state’s financial commitment to higher education.

In just four years Kansas legislators have tipped the funding balance at state universities so much that student tuition, for the first time, is financing a larger percentage of state university budgets than state allocations. In 2005, state appropriations made up 56 percent of higher education expenditures while tuition contributed 44 percent. By 2009, the state was paying 49 percent of those costs and tuition was paying 51 percent.

Rather than worrying about how much money the state is “wasting” on students who graduate with excess hours, legislators should be concerned about the role they are playing in making higher education less affordable for Kansas students.

On the credit-hour issue, the audit showed that one in six graduates of Kansas state universities had more than the required credit hours (defined, as it was in Florida, as 115 percent of the hours required for a degree). However, those hours represented only 1.5 percent of the attempted credit hours, and the state would have realized no savings from reducing those hours because funding for Kansas universities isn’t tied to the number of credit hours being taught, as it is in Florida.

University officials in Kansas already have an incentive to reduce excess hours and are taking steps, such as stronger advising systems, to achieve that goal.

Far more important than any concerns legislators had about excess credit hours are the financial figures revealed by the audit. From 2005 to 2009, tuition revenues at the state’s six universities increased by 41 percent. The higher tuition rates that produced that increase were a direct result of state allocations to universities that failed to even keep up with the rate of inflation.

State universities drive the state economy by conducting important research and providing a well-educated state work force. They also are intended to be a place where Kansas taxpayers can afford to send their qualified sons and daughters to obtain a university degree. The audit clearly shows that the state is backtracking on that responsibility by placing a greater financial burden on students and their families.

It’s true that the economic challenges of the last year or two forced state lawmakers to make some difficult spending choices. Nonetheless, the audit figures released last week should force legislators and our next governor to face the consequences those spending decisions are having on the quality and affordability of higher education in Kansas.


Richard Heckler 7 years, 8 months ago

"Rather than worrying about how much money the state is “wasting” on students who graduate with excess hours, legislators should be concerned about the role they are playing in making higher education less affordable for Kansas students." (New industry will not be attracted to Kansas).

This is known as Reaganomics/Wreckanomics dumbing down of America. The Kansas legislature refuses to let go of a failed economic theory.

Then again so does our Kansas Chamber of Commerce,Sam Brownback ,our local Chamber and perhaps our city commission. These thinkers want more money for :

"Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill)"

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston joins us to talk about his new book, "Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill)." Johnston reveals how government subsidies and new regulations have quietly funneled money from the poor and the middle class to the rich and politically connected.

David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist for the New York Times. He is also author of the bestselling book Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich—and Cheat Everybody Else.

Most all of the tax schemes hit very close to home. Why do we stand for such nonsense?

texburgh 7 years, 8 months ago

Excess credit hours! By golly we don't need no smarty pants over-educated elites in Kansas! We need to keep that book larnin restricted!

The more important thing to remember is that the Kansas Republican party and their cronies from Koch Industries aka Kansas policy institute aka Americans for prosperity aka center for applied economics want to keep higher Ed out of reach for the working poor. AFP in one of their recommended state budgets actually suggested that tuition at state universities be allowed to increase to the same level as in private institutions.

This is the result of the policy choices of a majority of Kansas Republican legislators. Tom Sloan, it should be noted is an exception.

bondmen 7 years, 8 months ago

The difficult economic choices are just beginning and a dearth of tax revenue coming to the state budget will be with US for sometime. Look how bad it's gotten for the Ducks University of Oregon President Begs Legislators for $800 Million and Says "We are Not Asking for More Money"

ralphralph 7 years, 8 months ago

We've got kids in our neighborhood who are smart, work hard, get straight As, are active in school and community ... and are not even considering KU because of the cost. That seems an issue.

Gareth Skarka 7 years, 8 months ago

If they're straight A students, they can get scholarships at any school in this country, including KU.

Maybe they're not considering KU because it's a mediocre state university in the middle of nowhere?

down_the_river 7 years, 8 months ago

Perhaps this story could be viewed from a different perspective? When the Post Audit group spoke of State funding not keeping up with inflation, they rejected the standard consumer price index, and chose to use the hyper inflated Higher Education Price Index which exceeded standard inflation by 62 percent.

Are most Kansans trying to maintain a grip on basic CPI cost of living increases, and the Board of Regents is trying to get us to pony up tax dollars at the crazed HEPI rate? If so, the legislature is correct to try to hold the line and not bend to the greed of university administrators.

One of the other notables in the Post Audit report is that KU's tuition increased at over 3 times the HEPI rate. No wonder that many are concerned that KU is pricing itself into a death spiral.

no_thanks 7 years, 8 months ago

Good point on HEPI vs. CPI, especially when considering KU's rapid tuition costs. But, perhaps another point that the legislature needs to consider, and it certainly would be controversial, is to adequately assess how many state institutions Kansas taxpayers can truly afford. Merrill is always quick to blame the decline in taxes on greedy corporations (which isn't accurate as Kansas Corporate tax revenue has been increasing until 2009, but he never focuses on offering fewer services or reducing costs. Government spending is out of control and it is going to require difficult decisions and sacrifices by all in order to right the ship.

Bob_Keeshan 7 years, 8 months ago

So in this post, we have an individual who first ridicules the notion that universities need more state funding.

Then, this individual ridicules the increases in tuition which have been needed to make up for the lack of state funding with the phrase "pricing itself into a death spiral."

The brilliance of the conservative mind.

texburgh 7 years, 8 months ago

You make some good points and then spoil it with "Government spending is out of control."

It's not. Government spending in Kansas has been kept relatively flat thanks to a legislature that gives the farm away via tax cuts every chance they get - both corporate and personal tax cuts. And in the past two years the Kansas state budget has been reduced by about a billion dollars.

Graves, Sebelius, and Pakinson have been frugal with the taxpayers' money as have both sides of the aisle in Topeka. But those three governors have refused to compromise services as is the desire of the conservative, Kansas Policy Institute wing of the Republican party. Count among them their candidate Brownback. Let them take over and we will see reductions in services that we all will feel. And higher Ed tuition will skyrocket.

notajayhawk 7 years, 8 months ago

"By 2009, the state was paying 49 percent of those costs and tuition was paying 51 percent."


Oh my lord! You mean the students actually have to pay for half their own education????? How awful!!!!

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