Students and legislators had to be unhappy to see all six state universities request higher tuition rates and fees. But as students and their parents go looking for more cash, irked lawmakers should look in the mirror.
The proposed hikes include Wichita State University’s 4.9 percent, the University of Kansas’ 4.3 percent and Kansas State University’s 5.2 percent.
Assuming the Kansas Board of Regents blesses the increases next month, some students and parents may have to take on more loan debt. Some may delay college – though even after years of steady and often steep increases at Kansas’ campuses, it’s still hard to gauge how price sensitivity affects enrollment. The institutions argue persuasively that, even with higher tuition and fees, they will offer a good value at a price that compares favorably with peer institutions.
Meanwhile, many legislators may be dismayed that the universities want to raise tuition and fees even after the 2014 Legislature restored some of the higher-education funding cut last year. But current state funding of the regents system is far short of its pre-recession levels, and Moody’s Investors Service just cited the “state’s budgetary challenges” and KU’s “thin operating performance and limited liquidity” as it downgraded the credit rating of KU as well as Emporia State University. That tough assessment takes aim at the Statehouse as much as at the campuses.
The regents should carefully scrutinize the requests, recognizing the link between affordability and access. And lawmakers should recognize their responsibility for such hikes and potential role in curbing them.