PSU’s top administrator and president Steve Scott spoke before the Kansas State Senate and House to advocate for larger funding allocations going to Pittsburg State University.
President Steve Scott spoke to the Kansas State Senate Higher Education subcommittee of the Ways & Means Committee and the Kansas State House Higher Education Budget committee earlier in February in an attempt to secure more public funding for the university after Governor Laura Kelly announced budget cuts to all higher learning institutions. Pittsburg State specifically will suffer a $2 million cut, a further cut from state funding this year at $1.5 million from 2008.
“We have always had a balanced budget,” Scott told the legislators. “We don’t spend more than we take in.”
Balancing the budget and declines in enrollment have led to layoffs of faculty and staff positions. The 3.7 percent decline in the student population has led to approximately 51 faculty layoffs, and after the past decade, the university has also eliminated approximately 52 majors, minors, and certificates. Some of these include restructuring previous degrees into emphases instead. Examples of these adjusted programs include degrees of education in physics, chemistry, biology, family & consumer sciences, French, Spanish, mathematics, and communication (speech and theatre). Degrees in Spanish, French, and other languages have been restructured into emphases in the modern languages degree.
Scott also pointed out to legislators that Pittsburg State University has robust degree programs and provides a “vital resource” for the community.
“Ten percent of our students are nursing majors and eight percent are construction majors,” Scott told the committees. “We are doing great work in pre-med with very high placement, and we have a very substantial and robust teacher education program and business school.”
Scott spoke to legislators about how the university has handled the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our faculty have done a remarkable job of adjusting instruction and responding to individual needs,” Scott said. “We’ve checked out laptops and expanded our wi-fi to parking lots. We’ve done rigorous testing. We preserved athletics and other activities, and we conducted seven walk-through commencement ceremonies because that was important to our students and their families.”
Scott stressed the importance that Pittsburg State plays in both the Pittsburg community and the state of Kansas as a whole. College graduates earn an average $1 million more than those who only have a high school diploma over the course of their lives, pay approximately $200,000 more in taxes, and exhibit healthier, more engaged lifestyles. More than half of PSU’s graduates also stay in the state of Kansas after graduation and go on to work in high-need industries such as medicine or plastics engineering.
“When you think about our students coming to our campus, the purpose of all of this is to have them find financial security for their families, become great citizens, and really contribute to the state and to the country,” Scott said. “Being involved in the local economy and helping to drive it is absolutely at the core of what we do. It’s in our mission statement.”