On Wednesday, Oct. 22 Kansas state legislators and university officials gathered at Emporia State to discuss budgets for higher education institutions. The legislators will visit all of the regent universities within the next two weeks.
The legislators and officials gathered in the Skyline Dining Room for a meal, followed by a question-and-answer session with President Michael Shonrock. Here, legislators were able to direct their questions to Shonrock based on ESU’s answers to questions they were given in September.
In this first session, Representative Jerry Henry, R-Cummings, said, three questions are going to have be posed – do they replace the 3 percent cut the state imposed this year, make level funding for regent universities or impose another three percent budget cut.
“I think there a real possibility that another cut may be discussed,” Henry said.
Although Shonrock said likes the first and second ideas better, he also said the university understands, and will be prepared.
Shonrock also said that enrollment efforts are going to increase, and they are going to be more aggressive than just “putting up a poster.” The university will work toward retaining all students.
“Growth isn’t about just adding more people,” Shonrock said. “It’s about retaining the ones we already have.”
In a second question-and-answer session that was held for those who wanted to continue discussion rather than take a campus tour, the issue of what the measure of success for higher education is was brought up.
“Ultimately, and I think all of us will agree, for any higher education, it’s completion,” Shonrock said. “…We want students to be highly successful in whatever they do.”
But, Senator Steve Abrams disagreed on the point of this measure of success.
“The ultimate goal is not, in your case, to get a Bachelor’s degree,” said Senator Steve Abrams. “The ultimate goal is to get a job. What value is it to have a degree in art history if you’re working at McDonald’s?”
When looking to further the interest of Kansas, Abrams said jobs are the main factor to be looking at. He said he didn’t want to disagree very much because “obviously, education is very important,” but he is suggesting the emphasis should be on jobs.
“Is it money well-spent to invest in a student to go for seven semesters and drop out?” Abrams said.
The average debt for ESU students has increased to $23,000, in comparison to $16,000 five years ago.
“I don’t want a student to leave with lots of debt,” Shonrock said.
But Representative Kyle Hoffman, R-Coldwater, said that the debt has not increased a “huge amount” for ESU.
“They (students) shouldn’t expect tax-payers to give them a full-ride,” Hoffman said.
Today, the legislators will visit Fort Scott Community College and Pittsburg State, according to an article from The Topeka Capital-Journal. Next week, their visits will include Fort Hays State, Kansas State and the University of Kansas.