By Kaylee Lindenmuth
Assistant News Editor
On Tuesday, Oct. 3, KU students had the opportunity to participate in an open forum with KU president Kenneth Hawkinson, held during the free hour in the McFarland Student Union.
Nearly 40 students attended, with their comments, questions and concerns ranging from intramural athletics to minor concentration to a Virginia field station the university is involved in, among others.
Hawkinson began the meeting by outlining some achievements and recognition that KU received over the summer, including a June article in The New York Times highlighting KU Rugby.
“The whole idea behind that story is kind of David taking down Goliath, about how a relatively small state university can be nationally ranked in the top two to eight teams every year nationwide,” said Hawkinson.
Hawkinson also noted KU was highlighted in the Wall Street Journal and an American Airlines Magazine.
“Our foundation, last year, we broke all records and raised $5.4 million. Nearly all of that money goes to student scholarships,” Hawkinson said. “This year, we are already at $1.2 million, and that’s after the first quarter, and so we’re on track to meet or even exceed the amount of money raised last year.”
Academics and Enrollment
“Our enrollment is up in new students, largely in graduate students and in transfer students. We’re down just a little bit in new freshmen,” Hawkinson said “Overall we’re down about two percent in headcount for all of our students. That’s because we’re still graduating large senior classes.”
“We’re still graduating large numbers and not making it up with new students, but we think all that’s going to turn around this coming year,” Hawkinson said.
“We have so many things in place, where we think there’s going to be some major changes in terms of our enrollment.”
Among those things is the potential for a first year seminar, which Hawkinson says will “give freshmen the tools that the need to succeed at going to a university.”
“We’ve dropped about 2500 students in the last five or six years. We have not been getting much support from the state, little increases each year, but we had a major drop in state funding about five or six years ago, and yet, costs still go up,” Hawkinson said.
Hawkinson noted that the majority of expenses for the university are in personnel, and that 26 percent of the budget comes from the state, while the remaining 74 percent comes from student tuition.
“We try to keep tuition down. However, we have bills to pay. We have to try to find that balance between falling state resources compared to rising costs and level of tuition,” Hawkinson said. “We’ve had deficits in recent years. This coming year, our deficit may be as much as $6 Million, and that’s a real struggle.”
Hawkinson said that if the university retained or recruited 600 students, the deficit would be wiped out.
“Every 100 students that we either recruit or retain is $1 million a year in tuition and fees,” Hawkinson said.
Chincoteague Bay (Va.) Field Station
“Could I raise the concern about our future plan with the Chincoteague Bay Field Station and how we’re planning to be engaged with them?” asked an unidentified student.
“The Chincoteague Bay Field Station is an oceanography and research facility that we have down in Virginia. It’s on the peninsula, most of it is Delaware, and you actually cross three states or more to get there. The field station is essentially owned by three universities, Millersville University, Kutztown University, East Stroudsburg University and then there’s a board consisting of other universities, and they’re minor members,” Hawkinson said.
According to Hawkinson, the three “major members’, Kutztown, Millersville and East Stroudsburg, pay $100,000 a year toward the facility, while the “minor members” pay $50,000. He also noted that the major members carry the debt of the facility, which he says stands near $13 million, which he says brings with it a cost of $340,000 a year in debt service.
“The problem we’ve had is the center has not been getting the enrollment it’s needed. Kutztown University has one of the largest student participation rates, but it’s nowhere near what’s needed to keep the operation going,” Hawkinson said. “The board voted last March to either look for another partner that might be able to invest money in the center, or another owner.”
“There has been no intent or effort to shut down the operation,” Hawkinson added.
General Education and Minors
“What’s your take on how many minors you should have as part of your major, or concentrations, things like that?” asked Clyde.
“Ideally you should have at least one minor, if you can fit it into your track,” Hawkinson said. “That’s one reason why we’re trying to reform our general education here at Kutztown, because we currently have 18 different general education curriculums, depending on what your major and area is. We’re trying to bring that down so that there’s just one gen-ed for everyone. Even more important than that is, a lot of the general education programs require 60 hours, and we’re bringing it down to 42 hours. That leaves much more room to have one, or even two minors.”