Hammond tells how FHSU will deal with latest budget cut, ease tuition impact and boost local economy

HAYS, Kan. -- President Edward H. Hammond said today that Fort Hays State University would use its nearly $2.8 million share of federal stimulus money to provide tuition relief and to stimulate the Ellis County economy by supporting deferred maintenance projects.

He also explained how FHSU would absorb the latest 2-percent cut in funding that Gov. Mark Parkinson announced Thursday morning in Topeka. This latest cut reduces state support of universities in the Kansas Board of Regents system to about $753 million, which is a step back to the 2006 funding level.

As the state of Kansas has struggled since last fall with declining revenues, universities in the Kansas Board of Regents system first had to reduce their budgets during the 2009 fiscal year, which ended on Tuesday (June 30), and then had to make further cuts in their base budgets for the new fiscal year that began on Wednesday. A cut of 10 percent and another 2 percent in unfunded mandates (university expenditures required but not funded by the state) originally caused a 12-percent reduction in FHSU's FY2010 budget. The additional cut announced Thursday brings the total impact to 14 percent.

"We will be able to cover the additional 2-percent cut, which totals $678,000, with one-time strategic planning money," President Hammond said during a morning news conference on the FHSU campus. "Just as we used strategic planning money to cover the rescissions in the FY2009 budget, we will use that budget line again this year to protect the operating budgets of our academic departments and support offices."

By using money that was budgeted in the strategic planning process for action plans, the university will again have to postpone some innovations and new initiatives, but it will avoid making further cuts in department operating budgets that are needed to implement the efficiencies-and-growth budget model.

The Friday morning news conference was unusual because it falls on an official state holiday. "These are unusual and difficult times and I knew the FHSU family and the local community would be anxious to hear how the latest cut announced on Thursday by the governor would affect the university. I did not want to wait until after the Fourth of July holiday to explain our response," the president said.

Dr. Hammond also used the news conference to announce programs and projects that will be funded with the $2,786,646 in federal stimulus money that FHSU will receive.

"Two of the planning principles we've been following since this financial crisis began last fall are to keep costs down for students and to minimize negative financial impacts on the local community," he said. "We are creating a Tuition Incentive Program, or TIP, that will reward our current students' good academic performance by greatly reducing the tuition hike that was recently announced. We are creating the Stressed Kansans Scholarship Program for workers who have lost their jobs and want to return to school. Also, we will commit a major share of the stimulus money into deferred maintenance projects, which will preserve and enhance segments of the university's infrastructure while also stimulating the local economy by creating jobs and increasing the demand for goods and services."

Out of the nearly $2.8 million in stimulus money, more than a half-million dollars will be used for tuition relief in these special FHSU programs for in-state students:
•    The Tuition Incentive Program will give current undergraduate students $5 for every credit hour completed this fall in an on-campus course with a grade of C or better. The money will be deposited electronically into the student's account and used to pay tuition for the spring semester. Undergraduate students will again earn $5 for every credit hour completed during the spring, to be used the following semester. Students who graduate after the fall or spring semester will be offered a voucher, in lieu of tuition money, that can be used to purchase an official state Tiger license plate for their vehicle. "We announced in June there would be a tuition increase of $6.85 per credit hour, raising tuition to $98.20 an hour for the 2009-2010 academic year, which means FHSU is still the only state-supported four-year institution in the Midwest with tuition under $100 an hour," the president said. "In effect, TIP will reimburse in-state students for three-quarters of that increase."
•    Under the new Stressed Kansans Scholarship Program, FHSU will pay full tuition and fees for six credit hours in on-campus courses for workers who have lost their jobs and want to return to school. In addition to six free credit hours, FHSU will provide assistance in getting other financial aid, will provide counseling through its Kelly Center for job-loss issues and how to succeed in college, will provide help from the Office of Career Services with job search tools and referrals, and will provide counseling for possible career changes. To qualify for the one-year program, a person must be eligible for admission and must have become unemployed since Jan. 1. Those who are interested should call 628-3478 locally or (800) 628-FHSU toll free and ask for the Financial Assistance Office, or go online at www.fhsu.edu. "Our Faculty Senate passed a resolution in February urging us to look for ways that we might help Kansans who have been impacted by the economic downturn, and I believe this program accomplishes that worthy goal," the president said.

The lion's share, more than 80 percent, of FHSU's stimulus money -- $2,200,646 -- will be used for deferred maintenance projects:
•    Roof replacement is overdue for Rarick Hall. The project will include removal of the defective solar panels that compromise the integrity of the roofing membrane. The solar panels, which have been out of service for at least 25 years, were designed in the aftermath of the '70s oil embargo and never worked effectively. Meanwhile, as part of its commitment to alternative energy, FHSU will continue its efforts to build wind generators.
•    The final phase of utility tunnel replacement will be completed. The last 250 feet of the original tunnel, which carries utilities into campus buildings, will be replaced from the Quad into Picken Hall.
•    The stimulus money will help with a multi-year Campus Electrical Improvement Project, which will modernize electric lines that deliver power to campus buildings. The system is aging and deteriorating, and it is also reaching capacity. At present, just one line connects to all the buildings. The project will create a looped system so that an electrical problem in one building does not impact other buildings.

In addition to tuition and deferred maintenance, the president said $50,000 of the stimulus money would be used to replace outdated computers for faculty. That is one of the expenditures usually covered with strategic planning money.

"The deferred maintenance projects are not glamorous," the president said, "but as Dana Cunningham, our director of Facilities Planning, puts it, 'We don't see these things, but we need them.'"

Finally, President Hammond used the news conference to provide a status report on changes in operations during the summer term that were designed to produce savings in energy costs. "We replaced most but not all of our on-campus classes with Virtual College classes, and we moved to a four-day work schedule of 10-hour days that allows us to shut down air conditioning in nearly all the campus building from Friday through Sunday," he said. "By providing the convenience of virtual classes while maintaining about 30 essential on-campus classes, we have actually seen an increase in enrollment. We are only about halfway through the summer term and we had students enrolled in 16,068 credit hours as of this Wednesday, compared to only 15,986 credit hours for the entire summer term a year ago."

He said that even with the increase in enrollment, FHSU had seen a significant reduction in energy consumption this summer thanks to the changes in operations and other energy-saving efforts by university personnel. "Our electricity usage in June was 1,125,280 kwh, a decrease of more than 27 percent from the average of 1,551,000 kwh in June during the three previous summers," the president said.

"As you can see, our efficiencies-and-growth budget model is working," President Hammond concluded. "But, we cannot absorb further cuts to our budget without it significantly harming the education and other services we provide to Kansans."

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Kent Steward, Director   |  ksteward@fhsu.edu  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |  kbeyers@fhsu.edu