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The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Administrators warn faculty, staff that budget cuts loom unless graduate school enrollment picks up

Graduate Student Headcount by year. (Thy Vo)

President Richard Muma and Provost Shirley Lefever said in an email to faculty and staff on Feb. 5 that Wichita State is facing a $2 million gap in its budget following drops in graduate student applications “both domestically and internationally.”

The university’s current operating budget is $774.5 million, a $168 million increase from last year’s $606.3 million budget.

The email, with the subject line “Enrollment is everyone’s responsibility,” comes after the university touted all-time high enrollment numbers for fall 2023 at Wichita State and WSU Tech in their spring 2024 alumni magazine, which came out on Feb. 6, the day after Muma and Lefever’s email.

In an email to The Sunflower, Lainie Mazzullo-Hart, director of communication for Strategic Communications, said that it is not an “apples-to-apples” comparison between graduate and overall enrollment.

“The message the president and provost sent out last week was just about graduate school applications, which are currently trending downward, though WSU is working to reverse that trend as best as we can,” Mazzullo-Hart said.

Between fall 2022 and fall 2023, the number of graduate students across the university fell by nearly 300 students. The biggest offender in this drop-off was the College of Engineering, which saw a 24% drop in graduate enrollment.

The College of Engineering opened its master’s of computer science program in fall 2021, and graduate enrollment as a college nearly doubled between fall 2021 and fall 2022. 

Aside from the engineering college, the only other drop in graduate enrollment from fall 2022 to fall 2023 was a 7% decrease in the College of Health Professions.

International graduate enrollment

During a public forum at the Student Senate meeting on Feb. 7, David Miller, the university’s budget director, spoke about the university’s financial “challenge” in regards to international graduate students.

Miller said that credit hours generated by graduate students fell by “about 11%” in the fall of 2023. Graduate students pay a higher tuition rate than undergraduate students, and international graduate students “pay an even higher rate,” he said.

“That (graduate student enrollment) is something we are going to have to wrestle with in this next upcoming budget cycle because if we don’t start growing more on the graduate side, we’ll have to figure out how to make up those revenue losses,” Miller said.

According to the president and provost’s email, closing that gap will manifest “in the form of budget cuts.”

Computer science program concerns

In an informal statement to the Faculty Senate on Feb. 12, John Hammond, a senator and senior educator of mathematics, spoke about increased enrollment in a graduate College of Engineering program in relation to the graduate enrollment issues the university has previously expressed concerns about.

In fall 2022, the master’s of computer science program admitted 900 students, according to Hammond.

He said these students were largely “underqualified” and “lacked any mathematical skills for graduate work in CS (computer science) and practical skills in programming for the program.”

During this same academic year, there were 358 academic integrity violations, with 242 being committed by graduate students, and 281 of the violations occurring in the College of Engineering.

Hammond said that math faculty, who took on computer science teaching responsibilities after computer science faculty left prior to the semester, were “harassed” by some students about grades.

“Our department has had to make new policies surrounding these (computer science) courses, directing any meeting with more than two students be handled in the main math office in order to protect our faculty,” Hammond said. “If harassing faculty is not enough, one of the undergraduate TAs was accosted at Dillons in fall 2022 by students demanding a change to the way their papers were marked.”

While he agreed with the idea of enrollment being everyone’s responsibility, Hammond emphasized that the university must “responsibly enroll students.”

“I support WSU to be a leader in engineering in the world,” Hammond said. “But I don’t want us to be a cash vacuum for underprepared, dishonest and bullying people. I would rather see a $2 million budget cut than admit their likes again.”

“Measures” to address enrollment

In the Feb. 5 email to faculty and staff, the administration laid out its “measures” to “bolster applications and admissions” in graduate programs at the university, which include:

  • Removing the GRE requirement for admissions
  • Making the Intensive English program’s tuition “more competitive” 
  • Setting enrollment goals for programs with deans, which, if not met, “further interventions will be implemented”

In addition to this, graduate coordinators now are required to attend weekly meetings to discuss how to increase graduate enrollment.

View Comments (2)
About the Contributors
Trinity Ramm, Managing Editor
Trinity Ramm is the managing editor and former sports editor for The Sunflower. This is her second year on staff. Ramm is a senior English Lit major and a sociology minor with a certificate in film studies. In her limited spare time, she can be found at the movie theater, browsing some obscure film database or crocheting. Ramm uses she/her pronouns.
Thy Vo, Advertisement/Design Manager
Thy Vo has been the advertisement manager and design director for The Sunflower for two years. Vo is a senior majoring in graphic design and minoring in marketing with hopes to pursue a career in graphic design after graduation. This is her third year on staff. You can alternatively contact them at [email protected]. Vo uses she/they pronouns.

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  • K

    Katie CramerFeb 19, 2024 at 3:26 pm

    Thank you for your thoughtful reporting on this!

  • J

    John HammondFeb 16, 2024 at 9:30 am

    Reading my comments in print, I regret two words. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t have said “their likes” because that suggests (if read out of context) a completely different meaning which I don’t believe.

    Instead, I would have said:
    “I would rather see $2M budget cuts than admit morons-who-know-nothing-and-choose-to-lie-cheat-and-harrass again.”

    I extend on this in a blog post on MathSquirrel Dot com. A masters’ degree is not a sheet of paper you can buy with dollars and dishonesty.