Topeka An audit to determine whether Kansas has too many college students accumulating excess credit hours found no problem, but did highlight the state’s historic drop in funding higher education.
The report released Thursday by the Legislative Division of Post Audit veered into a comparison of higher education funding between 2005 and now.
The audit found that funding has failed to keep pace with inflation and for the first time the percentage of state funding of higher education is lower than tuition revenues.
That means students are shouldering more of the costs, said Kansas Board of Regents Chairman Gary Sherrer.
“It has been a dramatic move away from the state’s responsibility of providing affordable higher education,” Sherrer said.
In 2005, state appropriations made up 56 percent of higher education expenditures, while tuition made up 44 percent, according to the audit. In 2009, the state’s share fell to 49 percent, with tuition making up 51 percent.
During the recent budget crisis, state funding to higher education has been cut by approximately $100 million.
Sherrer said the reduced funding from the Legislature hasn’t kept legislators from making more demands on higher education.
“The Legislature seems to be more interested in trying to manage the universities instead of funding them,” he said.
Overall tuition revenues across the six regents universities increased 41 percent between 2005 and 2009, the audit said.
The audit dismissed concerns about students taking too many classes above what is needed to graduate.
One in six students in Kansas public universities have credit hours in excess of what they need to graduate, but those hours represent only 1.5 percent of attempted credit hours, the report said.
“Neither the state nor universities would save significantly by reducing excess credit hours,” the report said.
“That’s because the state’s funding for the universities isn’t tied to credit hours. Even with the most aggressive assumptions, we didn’t find any meaningful savings universities could realize by reducing excess credit hours,” according to the report.
The audit was prompted by concerns from Kansas legislators after the release of a study in Florida showed that most students attending that state’s universities graduated with excess credit hours, costing Florida $62 million annually.
But the Kansas study noted different circumstances between the two states — Florida’s schools are at capacity, and Kansas’ aren’t, and Florida ties funding to credit hours, while in Kansas schools receive a block grant.
Auditors defined excess credit hours as those that exceeded 115 percent of the hours required for a degree. That level was selected because that’s what Florida used, and auditors said it is unrealistic to think that students can completely avoid a small number of excess hours.
Higher education officials told auditors that they’ve taken steps to curb excess hours, such as strengthening student advising systems.
The visual and performing arts and education programs had more students with excess credit hours because students take additional classes to gain performance experience or complete multiple teaching fields, the audit said.