- Testing the market
Five Pittsburg State students compete in stock competition
| Kelsea Renz managing editor |
Five Pittsburg State business students placed fourth in the local part of an annual global competition, in which they assumed the roles of research analysts to value a publicly traded company.
The competition, the CFA Institute Research Challenge, is a contest between schools that tests each team’s ability to value a stock and write a report about its results.
“A lot of it was just understanding the background of the company,” said Victoria McKinnon, senior in accounting and finance. “We were trying to incorporate what we saw in growth values and change that into a numerical value to understand what the value would be of the stock.”
Out of the five students who started the competition in September, only McKinnon, Adilet Saralinov and Stuart Semple completed the presentation round. The other two students, Xin Liu and Brendan Sheehy, dropped out of the group due to conflicts.
The remaining members had to work together to analyze the financial statements and potential growth of Kansas City Southern (KCS) Railway Company to create a stock value.
“It was really a group effort. We had to be really organized and had to have really strict schedules,” McKinnon said. “We were all going crazy on this team.”
The team made it to the presentation round in Kansas City before being knocked out of the competition.
“I think they did a great job,” said Kevin Bracker, professor of finance and the team’s adviser. “It was a tremendous amount of extra work they had to take on in order to do this, and the competition was really tough, as well.”
Pitt State students had to overcome more challenges than some of the other schools’ teams did.
“Our students have only had one undergraduate finance course,” Bracker said, “but other programs have students who have had more coursework before they start the competition.”
Having never done anything like this before, the students got a lot out of the competition, even though they did not make it past the first round.
“I feel like my understanding of everything financial has all just become more clear from working this in depth on a project,” McKinnon said. “And I’ll still be using this information in my job.”
The team will be able to use their increased knowledge to help them in the future.
“The experience as a whole was very informative,” said Semple, senior in finance and accounting. “It was also great for creating industry contacts who help recent graduates locate and acquire jobs in the financial markets.”
Bracker says he volunteered to be the adviser because he knew how much the competition could help the students.
“The students that participated in it were able to use their experience to get jobs and internships,” he said. “Even for those that don’t go into that career, I think the…skills they develop…provides tremendous benefits.”
- Student government: Prep for election season
| Marcus Clem editor in chief |
Pittsburg State’s assembly of student leaders is preparing for its annual election. Polls will be open from Monday, April 7, to Thursday, April 10.
Student Government Association (SGA) Sen. Lindsay Ong, who, along with Sen. James Saltat, is in charge of the elections process. Ong says that a more politicized assembly than before characterizes this year’s election.
“When I started out, SGA was a little bit calmer and more relaxed,” Ong, senior in premedical biology, said.
She added that passions and viewpoints within the SGA community can sometimes fuel heated debates.
“Today, it’s a really good place for opinionated students to come and represent their peers,” Ong said.
Back in the game
David Schlee, who served in SGA for the fall 2013 semester, is seeking to return for the 2014-2015 year.
“I know it sounds kind of corny,” Schlee, senior in biology, said, “but I really do just like to represent other students that aren’t able to do this.”
Schlee says that SGA will probably continue to be focused on the kind of energetic and, at times, emotional debates he’s seen this year, but he believes that’s a part of his job.
“I try to leave what happens in the room, in the room,” Schlee said. “What people are trying to accomplish isn’t like a personal attack against someone else, though I understand it’s hard to differentiate that sometimes.”
Sen. Jacob Joosten is seeking re-election after he’s become one of SGA’s more conservative voices on issues such as student-fee adjustments, which SGA has influence in setting every year.
“I feel that I can help resolve some of the conflicts here at the university, whether with the university or anything else,” Joosten, junior in automotive tech
- ‘It’s…painful to watch’
Venezuelan students react on upheaval
| Robin Siteneski reporter |
The image Raul Pulgar had of his parents changed in a way he couldn’t imagine when he hugged them good-bye on his way back to Pittsburg State University for the spring semester.
“My mom and my dad are protesting, and it really makes me proud,” the commercial arts student said.
Pulgar is one of eight PSU Venezuelan students who can be only spectators to their country’s demonstrations. Venezuelans started taking to the streets early February to protest against high crime rates, inflation above 50 percent and lack of goods.
The daily demonstrations for and against the government, which controls the largest oil reserves on the planet, are already the worst Venezuelan unrest in a decade with at least 18 people killed.
Pulgar says one of his friends got hit in the chest with a gas bomb in San Antonio de los Altos, a city of 70,000 people 26 miles from the capital, Caracas.
“It is extremely painful to watch how my friends are on the streets fighting for the country and all I can do is share videos through Facebook,” Pulgar said. “My mom told me that almost all San Antonio activity has stopped since the major streets are barricaded. San Antonio has a reputation for being a ‘safe’ place away from Caracas but at this moment it is as crazy as Caracas.”
A leader for a lifetime
Unlike Pulgar, Miguelangel Diaz says he tries not to read much about his home country because all he gets is bad news he can’t do anything about. He is from Maracay, a city near the capital, and got a mathematics degree from PSU this fall.
“My lady friends are saying they are not leaving their houses because they are scared,” Diaz said. “My guy friends are going out to the protests. One of them told me that there’s a very populated street next to a mall that is destroyed because students had to break all the traffic lights to have stones to throw at the guards to defend themselves.”
At age 20, he says he can barely remember life in Venezuela without Hugo Chávez, president for 14 years until his death last year.
“Most of it are flashbacks,” he said. “Chávez had been in power for the majority of the life that I had consciousness. I don’t remember much of the life without him.”
El Comandante’s shadow
Paul Zagorski, PSU history professor specializing in Latin America, says President Nicolás Maduro, a former bus driver, is a far less crafty politician than Chávez.
“Maduro doesn’t seem to have that skill to keep people, if not happy, at least the opposition quiet. The scary thing about it is that the government is turning to violence more than they have in the past,” Zagorski said.
The opposition, formerly led by jailed Leopoldo López, “figured they would sweep the board,” Zagorski says, in last December’s municipal elections. But Maduro’s United Socialist Party received 44 percent of the votes and the main opposition coalition 41 percent. The rest was cast to other parties, including some allied with the government.
“The problem with the opposition is that they haven’t been able to appeal to a large majority of the population [the poor],” he said.
The ballots functioned as a green light for Maduro to continue what he and his counterparts call a Bolivarian revolution, or socialism of the 21st century. The same happened during Chávez’s rule. The former military commander, also refereed to as “El Comandante,” started the movement by using the country’s vast oil revenue to finance the government’s “missions” on education, heath care and housing, for instance.
Venezuela government’s intervention on the economy does not go without contrast as well. While gasoline costs 6 cents a gallon, people must face hour-long lines and limits on the purchase of basic goods such as toilet paper. One policy even affects Venezuelans living thousands of miles away, like Raul Pulgar. To keep the currency levels, the government controls and limits the amount of American dollars Venezuelans can buy.
“If the exchange system and the government laws don’t change, I don’t even know if I’ll be able to stay here long enough to graduate,” Pulgar, a freshman, said. “Every time they ask for more and more paperwork. One of them was an actual letter explaining how I think my career would help the revolutionary cause.”
- Let them eat apples
University celebrates annual Apple Day
It’s Apple Day at Pittsburg State, or Apple Week for students who participate in the various fruit-themed activities across campus, from eating apple pie to honoring 20-year-old apple trees. One of Pitt State’s oldest traditions ripened well this year.
Where is that apple?!
Because of the snow day on Monday, March 3, the annual Apple Day Scavenger Hunt, sponsored by Student Activities Council (SAC) and Campus Activities Center (CAC), was delayed to Tuesday, March 4, ending on Thursday, March 6.
Each day of the scavenger hunt, five plastic apples were placed in various locations throughout campus. Clues to an apple’s whereabouts were posted on the SAC Facebook page. Students who were quick enough to find each apple first netted $20.
“I really enjoyed making the clues for this year’s hunt,” said Michelle Forbes, sophomore in marketing and management and SAC campus stew chair. “People get really excited hunting for them, and when they come into the office they always have big grins on their faces.”
On Wednesday, March 5, nine apple pies and 13 apple desserts were submitted for judging during the Apple Day Dessert Contest, held in the U-Club of Overman Student Center.
“We had 10 judges this year,” said Eva Sager, program coordinator for campus activities. “Two faculty, two staff, two celebrities, our student president and VP and our Homecoming King and Queen.”
The contest is divided into two parts: best apple pie and best apple dessert. The sweets are assigned a letter (“A” through “I”) for the pie contest and a number for the dessert side to keep the identity of the baker or chef anonymous.
Homecoming Queen Kristina Willis said she was glad to sit on the judge’s panel.
“No. 8 on the dessert side of the contest is my favorite,” she said. “I have no idea what it is, or what’s in it, but it is amazing!”
After the judging, the leftovers were open for grabs by passing students.
“I didn’t know about Apple Week before I saw this,” said Marlie Barnes, sophomore in nursing. “It looks awesome and I’ll be sure to be here next year.”
Winners of the contest will be announced during the convocation ceremony at 3 p.m. Thursday, March 6, in the Sharon K. Dean Recital Hall of McCray Hall.
Twenty years ago, students on the Apple Day Committee learned there was not an apple tree planted on campus.
Considering the importance of PSU’s commemoration day and the festivities brought to campus by Apple Day, the committee decided to plant an apple tree on the island at University Lake as part of the week-long celebrations for Apple Day in 1994.
The planting of the tree was documented with the placement of a plaque as commemoration of the appropriation of funding for the rebuilding of Russ Hall. The plaque, however, later disappeared, seemingly taken or moved by someone.
“This new plaque is a lot heavier,” Sager said. “The way it is placed on the concrete and its weight should help to prevent this one from wandering off.”
- Possible higher-ed cuts
| Marcus Clem editor in chief |
Kansas educators are nervously waiting as the state’s highest court of appeal decides how much money to provide to public schools. If more money is mandated, Pittsburg State’s funding could be in the lurch.
The Kansas Supreme Court will nominally have the final say on the level of money that K-12 school districts should be allocated. What has so many on edge is the possibility that the court will rule for up to $500 million more in funding for K-12 education.
The case, Gannon v. Kansas, is the third court battle between public school interests and the state government of the last 20 years.
A district court last year held that about $445 million in funding meets the state constitution’s mandate to provide a “suitable” provision. The Supreme Court’s ruling could come any week in the near future.
While there’s plenty of debate about the reason, all parties involved agree that Kansas cannot afford a nine-figure funding boost under its current fiscal plan.
“The state doesn’t have the money,” said Chris Christman, associate professor of teaching and leadership and former superintendent of Galena Unified School District 499. “The only way to fund that increase would be to raise taxes or cut funding elsewhere.”
It’s unclear what happens if K-12 increases are mandated. The Kansas State Assembly may try to ignore the ruling.
Rep. Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, the speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives, said in an interview with The Kansas City Star that he did not see the legislature “going along with what the courts say.”
Their options include simply doing nothing in the face of a ruling, or trying to make it official with a constitutional amendment that would set their position in stone.
Steve Scott, university president, is skeptical of that idea.
“We want to have time to respond to the ruling if it is negative,” he said. “Some legislators will be willing to ignore the courts. That would set up a very interesting and probably not very healthy situation with the state.”
If a ruling for higher funding is enforced, then higher ed could be one of several public services in danger of cuts.
Any other action would require increased revenues for the state, probably in the form of tax increases, to which the governor and the state legislature’s leaders are opposed.
Howard Smith, dean of education, says the situation for his education trainers is something of a catch-22.
On one hand, the College of Education supports increased K-12 funding to help students and create jobs for its graduates.
On the other, if the Supreme Court mandates more K-12 funding, Pitt State’s education students will most likely have to pay more tuition for a university with tighter resources.
“I’m anxious to see what the court is going to do,” Smith said. “It’s an interesting dynamic.”
Christman says the situation is the result of the state government’s lack of regard for education at all levels.
“I would generally say that education in general does not hold a priority position as evidenced by the actions of the legislature,” he said. “It’s just not a priority for them.
“Someone before us voted to raise their taxes so that I could attend a decent school. The current generation owes that to younger generations … The thing is, it’s all about preparing kids and giving them opportunities. That should be what we base our decisions on, and we don’t.”
Scott, will be the one to decide how to respond if higher education suffers cuts. It’s a familiar environment for him, as state support for higher ed since the financial crisis of 2007 has steadily decreased.
However, Scott says, the current situation is different, or at least it should be. Brownback’s plan of tax cuts that’s been implemented in recent years has emphasized a need for money across the state’s entire public sector.
“The tax cuts that have been implemented come pretty close to half a billion dollars,” Scott said. “This is a financial crisis for a variety of reasons, and part of it is because the state just decided to have less revenue.
“The good thing about the legislative process is, in the end, things get to a more reasonable, practicable position
- Biology Department moving for summer renovations
| Gretchen Burns reporter |
Students who have classes in Heckert-Wells Hall may have noticed the building is being emptied. Professors throughout the Biology and Chemistry departments are emptying their laboratories and moving them across campus to various locations. Why? Because this summer the building will be undergoing a renovation.
“This renovation of our ventilation system will bring our building to state-of-the-art conditions so it is a really good thing for us,” said Dixie Smith, chair of the Biology Department.
Smith says the entire building will be vacated for the renovation project because contractors will be tearing out the ceilings, where most of the ductwork is located. Dust, noise and disturbance will be enough to make work difficult for professors to carry on as usual during the summer.
“All of the (chemical vents) in the building will be replaced with new units,” Smith said. “When we are back in the building next fall, it will not look any different … but it will be a more modern building nevertheless.”
The Biology Department will have several laboratories taught in Hartman Hall from now on, including Microbiology, Principles of Biology II and General Biology. Lectures are already being taught in other buildings on campus.
The Chemistry Department has made other arrangements for its summer labs, which will be taught in Yates Hall. Fall laboratory classes will begin two weeks after the start of the semester, but Smith says the late start should not affect the lecture courses.
Many professors have been taking advantage of the move-out process by “spring cleaning” their offices and personal libraries. Textbooks and other media have been labeled free and placed on chairs in the hallways for passing students to sort through and take.
“Many of us are using this event as encouragement to do some serious cleaning, that’s true,” Smith agreed. “I wouldn’t say that it has been difficult, but it is sobering to see how much stuff we accumulate over the years.”
The opportunity for free scientific books was a wonderful experience for Brazilian student Natalia Schneider. Schneider, senior in biology, says that in Brazil, scientific books can be five times more expensive than those sold in the United States and books aren’t always bought.
“The first time I saw the books in the hallway, I got kind of surprised that there were three chairs with three piles of scientific books and a note that said ‘Help Yourself’,” she said. “I grabbed some books to read, and sat down on the floor and started looking through the ones that drew my attention. In the end, I went home with 10 books and in four days, all the books in the chairs were gone. For me, it is awesome to be able to expand my own scientific library while living in the U.S.”
Schneider added she thought the idea of professors giving away books that they would no longer use is a good idea because it gives students a chance to learn even more and beyond what they might learn in class.
Renovations always pose the possibility of not being finished by the scheduled date. Professors in both departments are planning ahead should this be the case, so that they may continue their lectures and labs without interruption.
“Probably the most difficult thing is trying to make contingency plans for the possibility of a delay longer than two weeks,” Smith said. “Every professor has to make those plans individually because each course has different requirements for space and equipment.”
- President Scott disappointed in SGA fee decision
| Robin Siteneski reporter |
The Student Government Association slashed a $9 proposed increase in student fees for the Athletics Department to $1 at their meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 26.
Steve Scott, university president, learned of the news while watching the Pittsburg State women’s basketball team defeat Emporia State in John Lance Arena that night, 81-75.
“Honestly, I was shocked by this outcome and disappointed as well,” he said. “Interestingly, I had just watched the Gorilla women play their hearts out to beat the No. 3 team in the nation. In other words, I had just seen our student athletes at their very best.
“My first thought was that our student athletes deserve better. While I don’t know anything about the discussion that preceded the vote, I’ll be looking into it as soon as tomorrow. I can’t imagine what information and opinions SGA considered that led to such a dramatically different recommendation from the Athletics Fee Council’s figure of $9.
“I want to review any materials they considered in terms of accuracy and relevance to the vote. … The setting of tuition and fees is a complicated process that involves a great deal of input and consideration, and I have always respected the role SGA plays in this process.”
Taylor Gravett, SGA president, responded, emphasizing that he supported the original $9 increase.
“I would just say that SGA understands that fees are a complicated process as well,” he said. “In committee, I voted for the $9 increase. The power that I have only goes so far. Ultimately, the final decision doesn’t lie with us. This is not something I would have supported but it is something the senate did and we have to move forward from that.”
The decision is not final, as it will go before Scott and the President’s Council, along with all other student fee adjustments.
Discussion on this fee started last week and took a good part of this week’s meeting. The $9 figure was approved by the Athletic Fee Council by a 4-2 vote.
A 6 percent projected increase in tuition next year served as the basis for the $9 figure, in addition to the Athletics Department’s request for equipment and other funding.
Senators rejected proposals to not increase the fee at all and another to increase it by $4.50.
The budget for the Athletics Department this year is $2,925,395, about $1.75 million of which comes from student fees. During the discussion, senators’ main concern was the maintenance of athletics scholarships. That would require at least a $1.50 increase.
The amount of $1 was suggested by Tadd Lucian, SGA legislative affairs director. He said he is sure, however, that the President’s Council will increase the amount.
Sen. Austin Leake, who is a former football player for Pittsburg State, voted for the $1 increase. He said the department has been getting student fee increases for the last seven years and it’s time for the department to start looking for other sources of revenue.
“They need the funds, but they need to look for other ways to get them other than student fees,” he said.
The group also approved a $4 student fee increase to fund Bryant Student Health Center. Student activity fees may be raised by $3 if SGA approves it in the next meeting.
A measure to impeach Gravett, Lucian, Kiki Eigenmann, SGA vice president and Sen. Sydney Lemos over lasting controversy from SGA’s Higher Ed Day visit to the state capital in Topeka on Feb. 4 received only one vote in favor and was summarily defeated.
- Coming Soon
Propane magnate gifts name to athletics center
| Marcus Clem editor in chief |
Construction is well under way on the massive expansion to the Weede Athletics Complex, but the ceremonial groundbreaking at John Lance Arena let the university thank those who are making it happen.
On Tuesday, Feb. 25, Pittsburg State’s future 300-meter indoor track, football practice field and athletics training complex was officially christened the Robert W. Plaster Center.
Kendall Gammon, director of development for intercollegiate athletics, who is a former player for the Kansas City Chiefs, the New Orleans Saints and the Pittsburgh Steelers, emceed the groundbreaking.
“It is hard to believe,” he said, “that in little over a year, the space to (John Lance Arena’s) immediate east will be filled by the most advanced event center anywhere in NCAA Division II and, I would argue, one of the most advanced at any level.”
The late Robert Plaster’s daughter, Dolly Clement, represented the Plaster family and the Robert W. Plaster Foundation. Its role as donor had been kept secret until the ceremony. Clement spoke on her father’s values of bettering oneself through “hard work” and education. She said that her father considered the best way to help others with these goals is to give money to institutions and projects as opposed to individual scholarships.
“If you want to make your life better, you can,” she said. “You can achieve anything you can set your mind to. Dad was passionate about free enterprise. Without the hard work that he did, he would not have had the success that he had.”
After the slate of speakers, who included Fred Logan, chair of the Kansas Board of Regents; Michael Gray, Pittsburg mayor; Taylor Gravett, Student Government Association president; and Steve Scott, university president, key participants lined up to do the actual “groundbreaking.”
Because of the morning’s cold weather and the decision to hold the event inside John Lance Arena, the ground was actually a bucket of soil taken from the construction site. Confetti rained over the scene as two separate lines of officials took turns with their hard hats and shovels.
Gravett spoke on his view of Pittsburg State’s history of continual improvement driven by effort from students and the community.
“Every time I see a window being installed on the Center for the Arts,” he said, “the construction for the indoor event center, or planning for the Overman Student Center expansion, my heart swells with pride.”
- Internationals face bar entry-policy
| Robin Siteneski reporter |
On Jan. 23, Gustavo Brandalise went to 505 Bar with four friends, two Americans and two foreign students. He presented his Brazilian driver’s license to enter the bar as he had done before. The license, in Portuguese, shows his photo and his date of birth spelled in the format of day, month, year: 12/08/1991.
On this night, however, his driver’s license wasn’t good enough: The doorman wouldn’t let the international students in with their forms of ID. They had to be driven home by the Americans to get their passports.
“I understand their position,” says Brandalise, 22, exchange student in advertising. “The problem with them asking for an original passport to go into a party is the risk of losing it.”
He was with a friend from Finland who tried to use an English-translated Finnish ID, but that also was not acceptable to the doorman.
At the start of the spring semester, 505 Bar, one of downtown Pittsburg’s most popular night spots, instructed its employees to be more selective in checking the identification of international customers. The bar began asking internationals to present their passports or an American ID to enter.
Previously, it accepted most forms of ID from students’ home countries. For some of Pittsburg State’s 421 international students, their passport is now the only form of accepted ID at the bar.
Mike Sittner, 505 Bar owner, says the policy is “for the safety of our business.”
“We don’t care where you’re from,” he said. “We’re just trying to keep things consistent.”
The policy change is meant to guard against the use of fake IDs or sharing of legitimate IDs to underage students. Bar employees may not understand some forms of national ID, Sittner says.
For his part, Brandalise says he understands that the bar has to abide by the restrictions of its liquor license.
Lost in translation
“They’re trying to avoid underage people going into the bar because they would be responsible if anything happened,” Brandalise said. “That could be bad for the bar and people who go there.”
Brandalise says he plans to be in the United States for a semester, and he is not going to get an American ID since he can get into other bars with his Brazilian documents. He has an international driver’s license that he used to rent a car.
“The bad side of this is that people who are actually not underage have to take their most important document to a party, where it could be lost or stolen,” he said.
Word spread about 505’s new policy. Finnish student Carita Kankkunen, 23, was prepared by the time she went to the bar for the first time a week after Brandalise and his friends had to use their passports. She says she took her passport and tried to keep it safe.
“I keep it in my cross-body purse and try to be really careful and not to leave it unattended,” said Kankkunen, an exchange student.
She added that she is “OK” with the policy because she is used to dealing with strict alcohol regulations in Finland. Kankkunen is attending Pitt State for a semester.
“I would rather use my driver’s license since my visa is in my passport,” she said.
Jeffrey Hashman, international student adviser, says students who lose their passports are able to replace them. But the replacement waiting time and fees depend on each country’s bureaucracy.
“To legally be in the U.S., international students have to have their passports,” Hashman said.
“So if they lost it, I would tell them to contact their embassy as soon as possible.
“Sometimes, they have to go to their embassy, say in Washington, D.C., sometimes the embassy will let them mail it (the documents for getting a replacement passport). It just depends on the country.”
Hashman says he advises students to keep copies of their passports and immigration documents and have photos of their passports on their phones.
“If something happened, having a copy is really helpful because at least you can show the government, ‘See, I am here legally, but my document was stolen or lost,’” Hashman added, saying he wouldn’t advise taking a passport to a bar.
Alternatives accepted by 505 are either a Kansas ID or an American driver’s license. Both of these are issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) located at the Meadowbrook Mall.
- President’s ‘balancing act’
Scott, Naccarato explain lobbying plans in town hall
| Marcus Clem editor in chief |
Steve Scott, Pittsburg State president, set out to speak plainly at a town-hall event he organized to discuss his goals as an ambassador to Kansas’ legislature.
Stopping the cuts
The town hall, on Friday, Feb. 14, in 109 Grubbs Hall, featured a certain tone of frustration that Scott has expressed in the past on the issue of higher-education funding.
“We have had to answer the question, ‘Is there value in higher education? Does it gain (Kansas) anything?’ That’s a question we’re ready to answer, but it is devaluing to us,” he said.
The administration’s goal is to divert the conversation away from these absolutes; Scott referenced what he sees as progress on that front as he prepared for his Wednesday, Feb. 19, Topeka lobbying trip.
Shawn Naccarato, director of government and community relations, emceed the town hall and went with Scott to Topeka.
Other than filing a concerted plea to not cut higher education any further, the lobbying trip, part of a broad effort for legislators’ hearts and minds, had the goal of campaigning for legislators to restore last year’s 6 percent cut of about $44 million across all the state’s higher-education institutions.
This year, because the 2013 session saw the passage of a two-year budget, the first of its kind in decades, that restoration must come as part of the handful of corrections and adjustments legislators will make before heading home.
“It raises significant questions, because almost every legislative session is structured around the budget,” Naccarato said. “This year, they don’t have to do that … The legislators are struggling a bit with what they are supposed to be doing.”
Bus tour effort
The height of the effort to court legislators to Pitt State’s banner came when the university held a seminar on Oct. 24, 2013, for a bus tour of members of the Kansas Senate and the state House of Representatives at the Kansas Technology Center.
The presentation at the state-of-the-art building helped temper some of legislators’ tougher sentiments, Scott and Naccarato said, though the future of the political situation remains treacherous.
“There are 125 House members and 40 senators,” Naccarato said, “and 165 views on how we can fund higher education.
“They all seem to be experts on this. I don’t know how many have actually worked in a higher ed institution, but they all talk about how we could do things better.”
Scott echoed Naccarato’s frank tone in reviewing the political environment that confronts the state’s colleges and universities.
Over the last 10 years, and especially since the global financial crisis of 2007, state support for higher ed has significantly decreased. Pitt State’s administration must constantly justify every dollar it spends, and still confront the possibility of cuts.
Tighter coffers, higher tuition
Scott referenced how things have changed since he took over for Tom Bryant as president in 2009.
“Dr. Bryant and I used to talk about maintaining state support at over 75 percent,” he said, referencing the share of state funding vs. other sources in providing the university’s annual revenue. Today, state support stands at about 50 percent.
“We have really seen that erode,” Scott said. “The state has a very different view. It has stepped away from this notion that a college degree offers a greater good. We’ve pushed back against it, but in 2008 it really got accelerated.”
Scott and Naccarato also used the town hall to discuss other parts of their platform for legislators, including the admission of undocumented immigrants as in-state students, the control of tuition, gun rights on campus and the protection of faculty tenure.
Of particular concern to Scott is rising tuition. No real choice exists, he said: If state funding goes down, tuition must go up. However, he still considers that a “painful decision.”
“When I walk away,” he said, “I’ll have to think, ‘Gosh, what did I do to tuition?’ … It’s quite a balancing act.”