Virtual K-State State of the University address focuses on COVID response and impacts

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Kansas State University held its annual State of the University address virtually this year due to the pandemic.

President Richard Myers started the address off saying this has been a year like no other and has seen the challenges everyone has been facing. All of these issues have led up to a lot of anxiety.

“However, on the other side of the coin, in the typical K-State approach what I saw from all of you was a response that was flexible, innovative, where people persevered, and showed great creativity, resilience, and solidarity,” says Myers.

Myers thanked and recognized all of those who have helped the university continue to operate during the pandemic. While their efforts may not have been perfect , Myers wanted to take a moment for everyone at the university to be proud of how they persisted since March.

“And as we compare ourselves to other universities I take great pride in all of us, faculty, staff, and students, as we responded to this new environment,” says Myers.

Myers says while the university has cutting edge research, the pandemic caused them to pivot some of their research to COVID-19.

Myers then focused on the university’s response to the pandemic and how it related to the seven themes of the 2025 plan.  Two of the themes are the graduate and undergraduate experience , which has drastically changed over the past six months.

“We sent students away after spring break and didn’t let them come back.  They had to figure out how to shift and finish their studies online, and find the character and perseverance to persist amid unknown and often difficult situations,” says Myers. ” They did all of that and came back this fall.  Through it all, they told the Princeton Review that they love K-State.”

K-State was ranked number one for happiest students, number two for students who love their college, and number three for best quality of life out of 385 colleges. Myers says these rankings coming from students in the midst of a pandemic shows faculty and staff really care about the educational experience at the university.

Theme four deals with engagement, extension, outreach and services, which Myers says the university shined during the pandemic.  Myers says as a state land grant university, it is their mission to serve their state, mission, and world.  Staff and volunteers in different departments made fabric face masks, face shields were 3D printed, faculty assisted with testing samples in state labs, gave free flour to the community, and developed diagnostic tests.

With all of the good news however came the bad.  Due to the pandemic, the university had some significant revenue loss from March to June. The loss of revenue for fiscal year 2020 totaled $45 million, due to increased costs and lost revenue from a variety of areas.  In fiscal year 2021, they estimate a loss of $51 million dollars from projected tuition, fees and revenue decline, uncertainty of state funding, reopening expenses, and other revenue not including athletics.  The estimated total loss of revenue is around $96 million.

Myers says the state funding is one of the bigger uncertainties when it comes to funding sources.  The additional $11 million dollars allocated for the university by the state has been allocated elsewhere.  The university is also having to deal with the expenses from reopening during a pandemic. However, they have received some SPARK funding to help out with that area.

The largest areas of loss of revenue comes from the student union, as some of the business revenue is down by 70% to 90%.  McCain is also not hosting any shows, but still have costs to deal with.

Last fall, Myers says they were looking at a refresh to the 2025 plan, but have decided to pause that as they recover from this crisis and implement their strategic enrollment plan.

Looking ahead, Myers says they are going to launch a strategic planning process post-COVID for a 10 year plan.  Priorities for the 2021 fiscal year include ongoing response to the pandemic and COVID-19, continued focus on enrollment, financial sustainability, and the health and well being of students, staff, faculty, and the community.  One of the areas of well being Myers says they will focus on is mental health.

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Sam Hennigh

County government and school board reporter. 2016 Kansas State University graduate in Journalism and Mass Communications. Kansas born and raised.

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