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Regents approve tuition increases at Wichita State, other universities

  • Eagle Topeka bureau
  • Published Wednesday, June 18, 2014, at 4:15 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, June 19, 2014, at 7:01 a.m.

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— Tuition and fee increases at Wichita State University and the state’s other regents universities won unanimous approval from the Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday.

Wichita State’s tuition will increase by 4.4 percent and fees will increase by 7 percent for full-time undergraduate students who are Kansas residents. That amounts to an extra $169.75 per semester, increasing the cost to $3,663 total for a student taking 15 hours.

This comes on the heels of an 8 percent tuition increase the previous year for the university.

John Bardo, president of Wichita State, said that the increase was needed to attract and retain top faculty members. He also said the university has been increasing services for students.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure that you get the very best education at a fair price,” Bardo said. “At the same time, we’re not going to sacrifice quality, because we can do it for $20 cheaper if we sacrifice quality. That gives you nothing.”

Bardo said the university’s focus on engineering and healthcare also increases costs.

“People need to understand, it’s not just that we’re offering the same thing at a higher cost. We’re offering different things and they cost more,” Bardo said. “And everyone else in the world wants those same people, so you’re in a marketplace that’s very expensive.”

“In the end, there is a cost to having quality,” he added.

Students were involved in the tuition increase process, said Matt Conklin, WSU’s student body president.

“I think an increase will always have an impact. But then again, it’s all part of moving the university forward,” said Conklin, who will graduate next year with a dual major in economics and history.

Fred Logan, chair of the board of regents, noted that this year’s overall tuition increase for the six regents universities was the smallest since 2001.

But another board member, Tim Emert, bristled at increasing the cost again.

“I’m going to vote for this, and kind of hold my nose when I do it, because I realize what a wonderful job these universities have done to keep these tuition increases at the level that they are,” Emert said. “But we continue to put the burden on parents, and students and student debt.”

Emert, who was appointed to the board by former Gov. Mark Parkinson, then blamed the Legislature for the tuition increase and said that state funding should increase to keep universities competitive.

Kenny Wilk, the board’s vice chair, said that the universities have had stable funding from the state. “We anticipate that continuing,” he said.

But Wilk said increasing tuitions and fees still was necessary to improve the universities’ competitiveness. “No one takes this lightly. It is a tough vote. It is a vote that you have look at today, but you have to look at tomorrow, too, what is in the best interest of our kids.”

The University of Kansas will increase tuition by 4.9 percent. That will be an extra $293.55 per semester for undergraduate students from Kansas taking 15 hours and another $764.90 for students from out of state.

Bernadette Gray-Little, KU’s chancellor, said the money will go toward making faculty pay more competitive.

“It’s always a balancing act, where we are taking into account what are the things we need to do and what are the expenses for our students and their families,” Gray-Little said.

Kansas State University increased tuition by 5 percent and fees by 7.4 percent, resulting in a total of $224.50 more per semester for a student from Kansas taking 15 hours.

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or blowry@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.

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