Wichita State University needs to do a better job getting input from and communicating with students – especially on decisions that affect them financially. Students are, after all, the university’s primary customers.
WSU received approval earlier this summer from the Kansas Board of Regents to charge engineering and some health professions students a $50-per-credit-hour fee, even for general education courses outside their majors. The fee can add up to more than $1,000 a year – and comes on top of a 3.6 percent tuition and fee increase all WSU students will pay for fall classes.
Though the dean of health professions sent a letter about the fee to those students last month, engineering students didn’t learn about it until they got their bills in the mail. Not surprisingly, students – many of whom work jobs to help pay for school – are upset about the price hike and being shut out of the decision-making process.
“I was completely blindsided when I saw what my bill was for the coming semester,” Shannon Mills, a biomedical engineering junior from Derby, told The Eagle.
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This isn’t the only example of students feeling caught off guard or left in the dark.
Student body president Joseph Shepard was upset that he learned from The Eagle in May that WSU was ending its late-night shuttle service for dormitory students.
“I represent 15,000 students on this campus,” Shepard said. “I am curious to find out where the student voice is on this matter. I wasn’t brought to the table.”
Student leaders and university employees also complained about being cut out of the decision to have WSU athletic director Eric Sexton also serve as vice president of student affairs. There is also grumbling about how WSU has spent nearly $2 million over the past two years on a plan to boost enrollment that so far has failed to produce significant results.
To their credit, university leaders are starting to acknowledge that they need to do better.
Royce Bowden, dean of the College of Engineering, sent an e-mail to engineering students this week apologizing for not warning them about the additional fee. Lou Heldman, WSU’s vice president for strategic communications, said WSU didn’t do a good job communicating with students about the fee, and promised improvement. WSU president John Bardo plans to meet with student leaders to hear concerns and answer questions.
Bardo and his leadership team have brought new energy and excitement to WSU. The Shocker Hall dormitory and plans for a new innovation campus are transforming the skyline and the image of the university. But they need to be less insular and more transparent.
Most of all, they need to make sure they don’t take for granted those who matter most: the students.
For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee