Higher Education Making Headlines in Topeka

It’s only been 96 hours since our last newsletter, which shows you just how fast things can happen in Topeka. Higher Education has been a topic of choice in the capital city with committees in both the House and Senate taking up several bills this week that could impact funding and policy.

Senate Panel Endorses Bill to Require Financial Prospectus for all Kansas College Degrees

On Wednesday, the Senate’s budget committee passed legislationthat will require all public universities and colleges in Kansas to gather and produce uniform financial information related to the cost of a degree and expected earnings of graduates.

The legislation would come with an estimated price tag of $2 million that would be required for the state’s 32 public higher-ed institutions to annually compile the necessary data. That cost would triple if graduates were offered a $100 incentive to complete personal surveys as suggested in the legislation. Data collected from these surveys would be used to help compile expected earnings data for each prospectus.

Comparison shopping is important for students and parents who are selecting a university or college. Academic quality and selection, affordability, campus amenities, safety, family ties, and many other factors play in to where a student chooses to attend.

Pittsburg State believes in transparency and helping a student choose the degree program that is right for them. This is why your university currently provides much of this information in its College Portrait narrative, which is available on the front of its webpage.

Pittsburg State currently offers more than 200 degree programs, which means it would annually have produce 200+ financial prospectus publications. This would be a challenging task especially given the current economic environment.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Recommends Higher Ed Budget

Last week, the Senate Ways and Means Committee made the surprising decision to change the governor’s FY16 and FY17 funding recommendation for higher-ed and, instead, reallocated resources among the state’s universities and the Kansas Board of Regents.

In broad terms, the subcommittee cut $4.7 from the University of Kansas main campus and $3.1 million from Kansas State University. It then reallocated $4.7 million of those monies to the University of Kansas Medical Center for the expansion of the KUMC-Wichita and Medical Scholarships; $1 million to Pittsburg State University’s School of Transportation and $2 million to the Kansas Comprehensive Grant Program.

Interestingly, the committee changed Comprehensive Grant Program language to reserve at least 75 percent of the total available dollars (about $17.7 million with the new $2 million addition) for independent, private colleges. Those colleges currently get about 50 percent of the grant money. The end result, according to the Kansas Board of Regents, is that more than 1,500 fewer Kansas students would receive need-based financial aid if the proposed changes were to pass.

The targeted enhancement for Pittsburg State’s School of Transportation is an unexpected but appreciated addition. It reflects Pittsburg State’s growing stature within the state and confidence in our direction and impact.

However, it is important to look at the larger picture when it comes to higher-ed funding within the State of Kansas. The Kansas Board of Regents is concerned with cuts (to KSU and KU) and funding shifts included in the proposal. Of greatest concern to the Board, and Pittsburg State President Scott, are the broader policy implications, specifically any shift away from a block grant funding approach and erosion of decision making authority currently granted the KBOR.

Sexual Assault Bill – HB2266

The week began in the House with the Committee on Education taking up HB 2266, which focused on the serious issue of sexual assault and dating violence on college campuses. HB2266 would mandate the adoption of a sexual assault policy that includes an affirmative consent standard in determining whether consent was given in any case involving sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking involving a student, both on and off campus.

Pittsburg State University, along with the Kansas State University, was asked to provide information about campus educational initiatives, policies, and preventive measures, related to sexual assault, that are currently in place.

Comments from Pittsburg State centered around its proactive health educational programming and safety services as well as the federal regulations currently in place (which already address the concerns of the bill). These programs include mandatory sexual assault prevention training for all first-year students, an award-winning Peer Health Educational program entitled “Gorillas In Your Midst,” and SafeRide and Gus Bus transportation services.

After a brief discussion, HB2266 was tabled. 

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