Apology over expanded fees may not placate Wichita State students

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The dean of the College of Engineering at Wichita State University e-mailed an apology to engineering students this week for not warning them that WSU planned to charge each of them hundreds of dollars more in the coming semester in expanded program and online fees.

Student leaders said the apology from Royce Bowden may not be enough to allay the anger some engineering students are expressing to them. About 75 engineering students have called student senators and student body president Joseph Shepard expressing shock at bills that, in some cases, added more than $1,000 to the cost of attending WSU.

The expanded fee charges both engineering and health professions students $50 per credit hour for every class they take at WSU, not just the course they take for their major, for which they already were paying a $50-per-credit-hour fee.

Engineering students say they want to talk to the engineering dean about the fee, which prompted Shepard to send a letter to WSU president John Bardo on Monday.

“There has been multiple times I have felt left out of the loop when it comes to making decisions which impact the student body directly,” he wrote Bardo.

This isn’t about him, Shepard said, but about how he says Bardo and other administrators shut out students on a decision that affects them financially.

Bardo did not return calls from The Eagle.

Lou Heldman, WSU’s director of strategic communications, said part of what happened was that the Kansas Legislature, with the long session this year, compressed WSU’s planning schedules.

Because they had so little time, he said, “we didn’t do a good job” of communicating. It won’t happen next year, he said. Bardo plans to meet with student leaders soon to hear concerns and answer questions, Heldman said.

Bowden sent an e-mailed note to the 3,000 students from his college on Monday, saying, “I apologize that more information was not communicated sooner.

“We realize the program fee of $50 per credit hour for all courses taken at Wichita State will increase the amount you pay to obtain a degree from the College of Engineering,” Bowden wrote. “Our top priority for the new funds is to hire additional faculty into the College of Engineering.”

That apology may not placate some engineering students, said Taben Azad, the engineering student who represents the college’s students in the WSU student senate.

“I think the students know that this plan (for the expanded fees) was well planned before June and probably discussed a lot by the administration before now,” he said.

In contrast, Azad said, Sandra Bibb, the dean of health professions, which raised and expanded program fees, sent a letter to her students on July 8 informing them of the changes and why Bibb thought they were necessary.

Reach Roy Wenzl at 316-268-6219 or Follow him on Twitter: @roywenzl.

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