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Butler Community College holding the line on tuition, fees, housing

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, April 20, 2014, at 10:03 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, June 19, 2014, at 7:01 a.m.

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Butler Community College officials say that the school, in an effort to control the spiraling costs of higher education, will not raise tuition, fees or housing rates next year.

“We’re focused on trying to keep our costs down for our students. We really want them to be able to get in and out of Butler with little or no debt,” said Kim Krull, president of Butler Community College.

“When we talk to students … they’re worried about the cost of education. So we’re trying to listen to them and help them with that.”

Responding to widespread concerns that annual tuition hikes are scaring away potential college students, the school’s board of trustees voted last week to keep tuition, fees and on-campus housing rates the same for the 2014-15 school year, Krull said.

Butler County students will pay $84 a credit-hour in tuition and fees; in-state but out-of-county students will pay $95 per credit-hour.

Numbers announced last fall by the Kansas Board of Regents showed enrollment was down 1.33 percent across the state’s 32 public universities, community colleges and technical colleges, with especially pronounced declines at community colleges. Butler Community College was down 5.9 percent, while Wichita State University reported a 2.3 percent increase and Wichita Area Technical College was up 9.6 percent.

Kansas’ 19 community colleges lost a combined 3,000 students, a drop Krull and other officials said is a consequence of economic improvement from the recent recession.

“We had a significant enrollment increase a few years ago, when everybody was coming back to school” after being laid off or unable to find work, Krull said. “Now that the economy is strengthening, enrollments have a tendency to drop.”

Kansas regents have not yet voted on tuition rates for next year. In June, they approved a sweeping package of tuition increases for the state’s public universities for the 2013-14 school year.

Krull said the recent vote by the Butler Community College trustees marks the first time in several years tuition will not increase at that school, which has about 14,500 full- and part-time students. Officials hope the freeze will encourage more students to enroll or continue their education, she said.

“We’re continually looking at our budget,” Krull said. “Everybody is working to be more strategic about their budgeting and tightening their belts. It’s just the way the economy is right now, so we’re just very conscious of that.”

According to figures provided by Butler Community College, 62 percent of the college’s students work and earn less than $20,000 a year. Nearly 40 percent are first-generation college students.

Like those elsewhere in the country, Butler students are using increasing amounts of Pell Grants and federal student loans. In 2000, Butler had 1,506 Pell Grant recipients with an average award of $1,643. In 2012, Butler had 4,514 Pell Grant recipients with an average award of $3,092 – nearly $14 million in Pell Grants overall.

Krull said she hopes that holding the line on tuition, fees and housing, combined with a new state program that pays tuition for high school students taking career and technical education classes, will encourage more students to consider attending Butler.

Also, as part of the school’s “Smart Start” initiative, high school students who enroll at Butler as full-time students within a year of graduation are reimbursed for any Butler credit-hours they earned and paid for while in high school.

“We want to try and help our students finish what they start. And that means that we need to have sound academic programs and high standards,” Krull said. “But we also have a responsibility to try and help them manage the financial commitment that it takes to come to school.”

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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