Business Q & A

A conversation with Kim Krull

Kim Krull has been president of Butler Community College since 2013.
Kim Krull has been president of Butler Community College since 2013. The Wichita Eagle

Kim Krull says she’s working to keep Butler Community College a good value for students.

President of the two-year college since 2013, Krull successfully advocated freezing this year’s tuition, fees and room and board the same as last year.

Before coming to Butler, she was vice president of academic affairs at Cloud County Community College for eight years, and before that taught math, biology and chemistry at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis, Neb. for 18 years.

Krull, 59, was born and raised in North Platte, Neb., and has two grown children.

What’s driving community colleges these days?

For lots and lots of years it was all about access for students into higher education … now the buzzwords are still access, but also completion, whether they are working on careers or whatever. So there’s been a lot of discussion — especially in Kansas over the last two years with the governor’s tech ed initiatives for high schoolers — at the state level about workforce development and career preparation.

What kinds of things is Butler doing for high school students?

Butler has developed what we call Early College Academies. We have an Early College Health Sciences Academy at Rose Hill, and an Early College IT Academy that just started this fall on the Andover campus. We are getting ready to roll out an Early College Public Safety Academy in a year. What these academy models do is allow these students some exploratory classes to start and track them through college level credit so that they gain certifications.

What are these academies about?

They are designed for the students who have the ability to take tough college credit classes at the same time they are finishing their high school degrees. As an example, at the health sciences academy, they are taking their academy class in the morning as a block and their high school classes in the afternoon. We actually have a young man who will graduate with his associate’s degree from Butler in December and his high school diploma from Rose Hill in May.

What’s the advantage of doing it this way?

From the standpoint of workforce development, these students get industry certifications: CNA, those kinds of things. What happens is that when they head off for additional college credit, either through us, or go on to K-State or Wichita State, they’ve got some of that college credit under their belt at low cost or free of charge. So, from that perspective, it is helping reduce their long-term college debt. One thing we are really, really trying to focus on at Butler is making their college degrees affordable.

Isn’t your enrollment down from the highs of a few years ago?

Enrollment at the two- year level is very cyclical. When people are out of work they come back to school and when the economy picks up, they typically go back to work. We were way above 10,000 students and have seen some drop-back beyond those points. It’s not really dropped below where we were before the surge.

The thing we are really excited about is that last fall’s enrollment headcount goal was set at 9,000 students and we ended up with 9,239; and the goal was 88,000 credit hours, and we ended up 86,500, so a little bit short, but we were really excited about that. We think it was because of a concerted effort to recruit and retain students, and in the process we came out with a brand new message and strategy to focus on specific sectors.

No matter where you are in your life of career, Butler is the place to start, take one class or take one semester. It’s really “Come to us, take your first step and we will help you prepare for tomorrow.”

What kind of general hurdles is the college facing?

I think everyone in higher ed is worried about funding and what will happen. … When it comes to funding, our first conversation is how to do we continue to help students be successful even if we have less money, even if our funding streams change. How can we limit negative impact?

BCC held its tuition this year the same as 2013, how?

Tuition, fees and room and board are the same as last year. We haven’t had those conversations yet for the coming year. … All institutions have seen decreasing funding from the state. Some institutions have raised mill levies. We have not done that. We’ve made some very comprehensive reviews of the budget, disinvested a couple programs that had very low enrollment or few student completions.

What did you eliminate?

We taught out the massage therapy program. That’s a perfect example. The state of Kansas doesn’t require folks to have certification to be a message therapist, so students didn’t have to have degrees to go to work ... .and it wasn’t a high enrollment program. We also had an online program in real-time reporting, preparing court reporters. If you start to look what’s happening in court in technology, there aren’t always court reporters to sit there and take testimony.

Do you see a lot of courses moving online to cut costs?

Online is our second highest area of enrollment. Our Andover campus is our highest. I think it will continue to grow nationwide because of the lifestyles we lead. We’re busy people, we’re mobile, we have technology at our fingertips. I don’t know if it will ever be the highest area for us, but certainly from the standpoint of finances, it’s more affordable because there’s not a physical classroom to support. From a faculty standpoint, you can hire content experts from anywhere in the United States, and they can teach from where they are. There is a lot of appeal when it comes to online.

How else are you working to increase affordability?

There will be a tremendous continued focus on college affordability through trying to raise additional scholarship dollars and providing opportunities for students to come to us at a reasonable cost. We are really working hard on making data-driven decisions on what should our tuition rates be, where is the point where affordability for students becomes the tipping point for them to where they can’t come to to school because it’s too expensive.

Reach Dan Voorhis at 316-268-6577 or dvoorhis@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danvoorhis.

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