State's financial woes continue; some WSU programs impacted

8:47:01 PM CDT - Thursday, March 13, 2003

By Amy Geiszler-Jones and Julie Rausch

03_13_03_EMSDSC0031.jpg (6,978 bytes)

The College of Health Professions has suspended
its two-year paramedic program as a budget-saving
measure. It will continue to offer the one-semester long
emergency medical technician program.

With the state's revenue projections indicating more decline, WSU administrators are looking at what those projections and earlier announced cuts will mean to the university.

Kansas newspapers reported last week that the state's budget problems got about $230 million worse. The new revenue forecast was released March 7.

According to the reports, the economists and budget analysts whom Gov. Kathleen Sebelius brought together to review state revenue forecasts found Kansas will be in the hole about $105 million at the end of the current fiscal year on June 30. The state will be an additional $125 million behind for the new fiscal year starting July 1, according to  The Topeka Capital-Journal and The Wichita Eagle.

That would represent a 5 percent reduction from the budget Sebelius proposed in January. At that time she proposed no cuts in higher education, as she had promised during her election campaign last year.

Sebelius was scheduled to come to WSU's Hughes Metropolitan Complex Wednesday, March 12, as part of a two-day, seven-city tour to talk about budget issues.

WSU was already forced to trim nearly $500,000 from its budget in August. Another cut ordered by Gov. Bill Graves in November translated into a $2.6 million loss for WSU.

President Beggs said in an Eagle article individual colleges and departments would have to determine how to best use the money available to them.

WSU's associate degree programs to train paramedics and legal assistants have already been suspended due to the budget situation.

According to Vice President for Academic Affairs and Research Robert Kindrick, WSU does not have a complete picture of what other actions will be taken until later this spring.

Program suspensions are an administrative decision; if programs are to be discontinued, or cut, the Faculty Senate would be asked for advice, according to Kindrick.

The College of Health Professions suspended its two-year mobile intensive care technician program, which trains paramedics, in December 2002. Students already in the program will continue their classes this spring so they can graduate in May

Within the Barton School of Business, no new students have been admitted into its two-year legal assistant program since August 2002. The college plans to "teach out" the program through spring 2004 for the 54 declared majors, according to John Beehler, Barton School of Business dean.

College officials say that they considered student demand, the community need for such programs and funding when they made their program suspension decisions.

In the Barton School, Beehler said he also considered WSU's mission as a four-year university. "It's more important for us to maintain excellent undergraduate and graduate programs in business than to keep a two-year program outside the field of business," he said.

Enrollment in the MICT and legal assistant programs had dwindled in recent years.

 "It was real obvious that over the past five years or so, enrollment had dropped drastically," said Beehler, about the legal assistant program. "Classes were going into the single digits." There had been a recent, slight upturn, which Beehler said could be attributed to the bad economy, when laid-off workers and others start to consider different career paths.

Beehler visited with CEOs and other key attorneys at eight of Wichita's law firms to gauge the need. "I did my homework," he said. The consensus from the law firms was that there wasn't a need because most firms train their own legal assistant hires internally.

During the program's 30-year history, many of its graduates had been hired by major local corporations with large legal staffs. A number of large corporations have left town; some who've stayed have cut back or moved their legal divisions elsewhere.

MICT enrollment had also been declining, to about five to eight students in recent years, after highs of 15-20 students in the mid-1990s, according to College of Health Professions officials.

Only four students are currently in the program, and students applying for the program were counseled to apply to other MICT programs in the region. MICT programs are offered at six Kansas community colleges, including Cowley County and Hutchinson.

The decision to suspend the MICT program was made on the basis of the college's overall budget picture and the impact of current and potential budget cuts on the college's other academic programs, according to College of Health Professions officials.

The college, however, will keep its one-semester emergency medical technician program because "demand is still high." Firefighters, for example, often take the class.

Some positions will be cut through the MICT and legal assistant program suspensions.

One temporary full-time faculty member and several part-time lab assistants in the MICT program will not be retained. The remaining faculty member from the MICT program and a reduced number of part-time lab assistants will stay on staff as part of the EMT program.

Within the legal assistant program, most of the instructors are local lawyers who teach as adjuncts. The program's director, John Conlee, also an attorney, already teaches business law classes full time and will continue to do so. Its half-time coordinator, Karen Demel, will be asked to become a much-needed student adviser for the business school.

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