A vice president of finance with a wealth of experience in the collegiate and corporate world is the new chief financial officer at Kansas City Kansas Community College.
Michael Beach, 55, an assistant vice president and public treasurer at Southern Utah University for the last seven years, was approved as vice president and chief financial officer by the KCKCC Board of Trustees Jan. 26.
“A great opportunity,” said Beach of his decision to leave his position as assistant vice president at Southern Utah, a university of 10,000 students located in Cedar City. “The title and nature of the position and my familiarity with higher education are a great opportunity.”
“We are thrilled to have a permanent new CFO of Michael Beach’s caliber,” KCKCC Acting President Dr. Jackie Vietti said. “His experience in higher education and also in the private sector will be of tremendous value to the college for several reasons, including the current, as well as projected decrease in state funding. Beyond Michael’s extensive expertise, his work ethic and interpersonal skills are outstanding. It is clear he is an individual of absolute integrity.”
Beach said location was another factor in his move to the Midwest. His mother currently lives 16 miles southeast of Cameron, Mo., after she and her late husband moved there in 2008.
“When my wife and I find a home, my mother will probably live with us,” he said. Beach’s wife, Suzette, is still employed at Southern Utah University as director of community education and experimental learning through the end of March.
Beach’s first look at KCKCC came last December.
“I loved the campus,” he said. “I came for my interview and coming in on the Campus Drive off State Avenue I thought this is really a nice place. Faculty, staff, and students were so warm and welcoming and I talked to so many people who love Kansas City and as they say, the rest is history.”
While his time on campus has been limited, Beach said he will prioritize a couple of areas to move the college forward.
“I’d like to see a one, five, and 10-year master plan for the entire college facilities. It’s hard for a strategic enrollment plan to accomplish its objectives if you don’t have a plan for the infrastructure to support the growing needs of the college.”
Beach said he would also like to capitalize on his background in investments by offering the college and the foundation a sound investment strategy.
“I also see an opportunity for the more timely and consistent dissemination of relevant and adequate financial information and other key performance indicates to all of campus through a financial dashboard,” he said.
An Oregon native, Beach graduated from West Albany High School where he played football and basketball and competed in the triple jump and pole vault in track as a sophomore and junior only to have a heart murmur rule him out of any further competitions his senior year.
“My love was basketball,” he said. “I had a vertical jump of 38 inches and could dunk from a standing vertical jump; it’s probably the only reason I made the team because I couldn’t handle the ball very well.”
A year after his high school graduation, Beach spent two years serving a religious mission in New Zealand. Following his mission and his families’ move to Utah, he enrolled at Snow College, a two-year college in Ephraim, Utah, and then enrolled at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
“I got married between the two colleges,” he said.
While at the University of Utah, Beach got his first full-time job in accounting and then transferred to the accounting program at Weber State University where he could finish his degree at night while working full time during the day. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting with a minor in Economics in 1988. He later would earn master’s degrees in accounting (MAcc) and business administration (MBA), with a perfect 4.0 GPA, also while working full-time.
Beach joined Price Waterhouse Coopers, one of the nation’s top four accounting firms, out of college, working three years in Portland, Oregon, before transferring to Salt Lake City. He successfully passed the uniform CPA exam and became a licensed CPA in 1991. He would later transfer to a local CPA firm where he became a partner. He left shortly after to become the vice president of finance and CFO of a manufacturing company in Springville, Utah. During his 13 years in Springville, he also worked 6½ years after merging a fraud prevention and detection practice with a large local CPA firm before going to Southern Utah.
The Beaches have three sons and a daughter, all of whom are married, and they have five grandchildren. All three sons still live in Utah.
“My youngest son is working on his license to become a commercial pilot,” he said. The oldest son, a petroleum geologist turned general manager, manages a business the Beaches own making carbon fiber propellers for the lite-sport aircraft and large commercial drones industries. Their other son will be joining Amazon in Herndon, Virginia, as a member of their cyber security team in May after graduation, Their daughter, a mother of two, is a registered nurse working on her master’s degree in nursing, while her husband is in the Navy’s elite periodontist program at Walter Reed Hospital in Maryland.
An ailing back no longer allows Beach to play golf or snow ski, which was also responsible for an ACL injury “which abruptly brought my vertical jump down to earth,” joked Beach. “I had to give it up. I still like running and cycling. My wife and I love going places and hiking and we’ve been in team super relay running events like the widely recognized Ragnar Wasatch Back Relay in Utah, a 190-mile relay which is a lot of fun.”
Kansas could struggle to stop college students from taking their money to other Midwestern states if it continues to charge higher tuition.
The University of Missouri-Kansas City announced last week it’s offering in-state tuition rates to students from Kansas and cutting rates for 15 other states. The University of Kansas announced plans for a similar move for high-achieving students outside Kansas in December.
Both moves come as college enrollment declines and states struggle to find enough students to fill their public universities. Shifting demographics means the pool of high school graduates is shrinking — particularly in the Midwest.
The extra competition could be trouble for Kansas, with its public universities struggling to match the lower tuition offered by other Midwestern colleges.
Shrinking enrollment numbers are causing schools to fight harder for students beyond their state lines. As a result, students see the barriers to heading out of state for college slowly shrink away.
“It’s extremely competitive,” said Tom Williams with Williams and Company, an enrollment management firm consulting colleges and universities. “Everybody is looking for where there are more college-bound students so the competition for those students is much greater.”
With the exception of academic powerhouses such as Harvard, universities traditionally worked within a local or state market. That slowly began to change over the last decade, as states began cutting their higher education funding.
To make up for budget gaps, universities began looking more for out-of-state students who paid their higher tuition rates. But as enrollment continues to slide, universities have begun reducing out-of-state tuition to fill empty seats.
Years of cuts to higher education funding in Kansas have led to less funding per student and higher tuition costs than universities in neighboring states, with the exception of Colorado.
In December, Kansas Board of Regents president Blake Flanders said he saw signs that tuition at Kansas state school were already at the limits of how high they could go while still being competitive with Kansas’ neighbors.
“There’s not really that much more room to increase tuition without losing students,” Flanders said.
The drop in tax dollars used to subsidize public universities in Kansas could continue, sending tuition higher and tempting more student to go elsewhere.
“Universities are going to have to do more with less again,” said Brett Frazier, chief customer officer at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, a consulting firm for enrollment management.
Schools will have to sell students on more than price. Unique academic programs aimed at local needs— such as the engineering programs that feed Wichita’s aviation industry — can help Kansas universities compete.
“I’ve seen over many, many years the ability of Kansas state higher ed to remake itself,” said Frazier, who graduated from the University of Kansas.
The growing competition is a potential boon for students — and for parents footing the bill. While tuition has increased dramatically over the past few decades, recent years have seen tuition hikes slow down.
“It’s a buyer’s market,” said Williams, the consultant. “It’s becoming increasingly rare for a family to actually decide they can’t afford to attend the school they want to.”
Many students may not feel that way, however. Many still struggle to keep pace even with smaller tuition hikes and find their financial aid packages falling short.
The pool of high school graduates continues to shrink. Jerry Lucido, the executive director of the University of Southern California Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice, said universities should look at students in local and underserved communities.
That includes minority and adult populations. At the same time, he said, continued demographic shifts means competition between states will continue to grow.
“It’s only getting started,” Lucido said. “It’s going to continue through 2020 and beyond.”
Stephan Bisaha, based at KMUW in Wichita, is an education reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.