Regents visit PSU
Board of Regents talks tuition, realignment, praises Pittsburg
Jay Benedict | Collegio Reporter
Amid the mess of collegiate conference realignment Kansas is caught in, the state’s Board of Regents made a visit to the Pittsburg State campus this week.
Regent Ed McKechnie says the fate of the University of Kansas and Kansas State University is largely in their hands. The board would prefer the two schools to stay together, but the landscape is changing daily.
“When the panic dies down and cooler heads prevail, I believe the Big 12 will remain intact,” McKechnie said.
Right now, it looks like his prediction may be coming true. The nine remaining schools of the conference appear to have recommitted to each other and may even be looking to bring in some other institutions.
The Kansas Board of Regents governs all the state universities and visits each campus yearly to talk with constituents and PSU was the board’s first stop this year. While on campus, the Board of Regents members held several meetings and open forums with staff, faculty, members of the community and students. The Regents visit so they can gauge where each institution is excelling and areas in which it needs assistance.
One of the major concerns for PSU has been reductions in state funding. The Legislature used to provide around 75 percent of the university’s funding, but now the number is closer to half. Regent Dan Lykins says tuition is likely to continue rising to offset the state cuts.
“We make the visit to hear what the students have to say,” Lykins said. “If students wanted tuition to stay the same, we could do that, but you have to rea
lize it would be at the cost of quality courses and quality teachers.”
Lykins explained that nearly $100 million was cut. That money paid for everything from on-campus jobs, to classes, and developing new programs like the university’s polymer science division. McKechnie says the Regents try to balance the cost of tuition and state funding with what’s required to provide a quality education.
McKechnie says the financial burden of earning a degree has to be balanced by PSU’s foundation raising more money to provide scholarships and presenting the state Legislature with ideas about how to address the problem. The Regents visit campuses to hear the students’ needs so they can develop a story and a plan.
“The Legislature is focused on fixing the state’s economy, but a kid who graduates with $50,000 in debt doesn’t help the economy,” McKechnie said.
Regent Robin Moran says online classes will play a larger part at PSU and other state universities. Online classes are more accessible to both students and the community. There are over 150 for-profit institutions offering Internet courses in the state.
“If we don’t offer more online courses, someone else will. We have to stay competitive,” Moran said.
Providing more online classes that are available to a larger audience will likely increase the number of students attempting to transfer credits from one institution to another. Moran says the Regents are working on a portal that will make it easier to see which classes line up with those offered at other universities and community colleges in the Kansas. Transferring credits can be difficult and with an increase in online courses, students need a centralized place to see which classes count where.
The Regents praised Pitt State’s relationship with the community, but said the university needed to work more closely with businesses to provide opportunities for graduates to stay in the area. They also say the collaboration between students, faculty, and administrators on campus was the “gold standard” for state universities.
“Being able to talk with the Regents and presenting them with the atmosphere here allowed them to get a real feel for it,” Jason Bilberry, senior in business management, said. “There are lots of good stories coming out of Pitt and I’m glad they know them.”