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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kansas Board of Regents to decide on proposals later this month

Regents preparing to vote on schools’ requests

By SARAH TUCKER
The Wichita Eagle

Students at Kansas universities may soon be paying more tuition — again.

Later this month, the Kansas Board of Regents is expected to vote on proposed tuition increases at all six state universities, just as it did a year ago.

Ed McKechnie, the regents’ chairman, said the board has done “quite a bit of work” to understand and anticipate this year’s proposals.

“We took significant cuts three years ago,” he said. “The last couple of years, we’ve been held flat, but basics go up.

“There’s nothing too outlandish here when you consider the state hasn’t increased funding.”

At the regents’ meeting in May, all six public universities submitted tuition increase proposals. Each proposal included a breakdown of the tuition increase by credit hour, resident status and undergraduate or graduate classifications.

Also included in the proposals were suggested fee increases, how each school plans to use the increased revenue and justifications for the increases. Should the proposals be approved when the regents meet June 20-21 in Topeka, the tuition and fee increases would go into affect this fall.

University of Kansas

Jeffrey Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas, said KU walks a “fine line” to make education accessible to students, even as state support for public education lags.

Compared to other Big 12 schools, KU is “much lower in terms of tuition income per student and what the state provides,” Vitter said. “We have to work much harder to do more with less.”

KU plans to raise tuition 5.1 percent for graduate and undergraduate students from Kansas and nonresident graduate students. Nonresident undergraduates could see their tuition increase by 6.9 percent. All students at the KU Medical Center campus could see a 6 percent tuition increase.

In addition to raising tuition, KU has also proposed increases to school-specific course fees and some campus privilege fees. Undergraduates previously participating in KU’s Four-Year Tuition Compact will not be affected, but new students entering the compact for the first time this fall would have the 5.1 percent tuition increase.

According to the proposal, the increased tuition will generate $14.42 million for the Lawrence campus. KU plans to use the money to expand its Honors Program, experiential learning opportunities and study abroad programs, as well as provide additional support to doctoral students, retention efforts and boost recruitment of out-of-state students.

KU has also earmarked $1.1 million for the KU Tuition Grant program, bringing the amount of money for eligible students to $10.1 million. The remaining portion of the $14.42 million would be used to cover other needs, such as rising health insurance costs, faculty and staff retention, and technology improvements.

WSU

At Wichita State University, the tuition for in-state graduate and undergraduate students could rise 4 percent, pending approval by the Regents. Nonresident graduate and undergraduate students may have a lower increase of 1.5 percent, but it is a dollar amount equivalent to their in-state peers, said Mary Herrin, vice president for Administration and Finance at WSU.

To determine the tuition increase, Herrin said WSU made a list of all required expenditures. The list included an increase in group health insurance, longevity pay and projected utility costs. The basic expenses totaled $2.1 million, which is what WSU requested for its tuition increase.

“These are required things,” said Herrin, who was involved in the tuition increase process. “It’s not like we’re adding new programs.”

Olivia Sullivan, a junior at WSU and the Student Government Association vice president, said student government members meet one-on-one with department officials to determine need and scrutinize line-by-line the school’s $10.8 million budget every year. In addition to tuition, WSU has proposed a minor fee increase.

“This year, we were lucky because we only increased fees to match inflation,” Sullivan said. The proposed fee increase is 1.73 percent, or 60 cents per credit hour.

“I think it’s important that people know that tuition increases are mostly due to the economy,” she said.

K-State

Courtney Taylor, a 23-year-old junior majoring in interior design at Kansas State University, said she is concerned about even the slightest tuition increase.

Before enrolling at K-State, Taylor said she attended other schools, including KU and Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. Because she took out student loans at the other colleges, Taylor said she isn’t eligible for as much aid as other students at K-State.

“I don’t have any family support,” Taylor said. “Anything I receive from financial aid, I live off the rest of it. So, it’s just that much less to live off of.”

At K-State, the proposed tuition increase is 5.5 percent for all students at the Manhattan and Salina campuses, and 3 percent for nonresident graduate students attending K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine. According to the proposal, revenue generated from K-State’s tuition increase would go to required expenditures similar to WSU, as well as toward retaining faculty, increasing retention programs and distance education courses.

Bruce Shubert, vice president for Administration and Finance at K-State, said the school’s process involved identifying the most “basic needs” and then figuring out how to maintain quality with the increased costs.

“We certainly are aware of the pressures on our students and their families, but we have to balance that with the need to maintain the quality of a K-State degree,” Shubert said.

Other changes

All Kansas schools submitted requests for tuition and fee increases, but some schools are asking for a few more changes.

At Emporia State University, proposed changes to the tuition structure make the tuition increase seem extremely high.

“It looks like a really big increase, but (tuition structure change) ends up saving 90 percent of our on-campus graduates money,” said Gwen Larson, assistant director of marketing and media relations for the school.

Pending the regents’ approval, the school will charge flat-rate tuition for all on-campus, full-time undergraduates, as well as charge all graduate students on a per-credit hour basis. If campus privilege fees are included with the 6.1 percent tuition increase, in-state graduate students could see a 15.2 percent increase in their tuition and fees. That includes a previous student-approved $25 increase for renovations to Memorial Union.

Although its requested percentage increase is higher than most of the other Kansas schools, Emporia State’s dollar increase is the fifth-lowest, with Fort Hays State University being the lowest, Larson said.

“We’re very conscious (of increases) because a lot of our students are first-generation college students, so we try and keep it as affordable as we can,” she said.

A full breakdown of each school’s proposed tuition and fee increases can be found at www.kansasregents.org.

Tuition and fees, per semester

Resident undergrad, full-time enrollment

KU LawrenceKU Lawrence compact* KSUKSU-SalinaWSUESUPSUFHSU
FY 2012 approved tuition and fees$4,234.45$4,610.95$3,828.60$3,617.16$3,095.00$2,476.00$2,581.00$2,041.05
FY 2013 proposed tuition and fees$4,443.75$4,839.00$4,023.30$3,798.66$3,203.75$2,636.00$2,747.00$2,116.50
Proposed $ increase$209.30$228.05$194.70$181.50$108.75$160.00$166.00$75.45
Proposed percent increase4.9%4.9%5.1%5%3.5%6.5%6.4%3.7%

* fixed for four years

Reach Sarah Tucker at 316-268-6514 or stucker@wichitaeagle.com.

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