State schools' food, housing fees set to rise

Kansas public university students already will pay more next fall for their education, and now food and housing are going up, too.

The Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday will make a final decision on proposed increases in dormitory- and food-plan rates at all six of the universities it governs. Last month the board approved a first reading of the increases.

For a typical student at the University of Kansas, room and board would go up $180, or 2.6 percent, to $6,982 a year.

For a typical student at Kansas State University, it would go up 3 percent, or $202, to $6,954. The biggest hike — 4.7 percent, or $272 — is proposed at Pittsburg State University.

University officials said the proposed increases are driven by inflation and the cost of maintenance, but also by outstanding bond debt, incurred when campuses increased housing space before the economic crisis.

"First let me say I don't know how regents will vote," said Jill Docking, board chairwoman.

But schools must raise rates some because "they have to meet the bond requirements," she said. "If they don't meet the bond covenant and the bonding fails, then that institution can never borrow money again. There is not much flexibility on bonds, but the real question, the really good question is, is all of this required to cover the bonds. I think regents will ask that question."

The fees that students pay to stay in campus dormitories and eat in the cafeterias have to cover the full cost of university housing and food service.

University officials say that even with increases, what Kansas universities charge for room and board remains lower than the regional average.

According to a national report on trends in college pricing, this year's average room and board at four-year public universities in the Midwest is $7,511.

Tuition at Kansas public universities was increased this year as much as 8.5 percent — more than the national average. The average tuition at four-year public colleges in the U.S. climbed 6.5 percent.

Any new housing and cafeteria rates will go into effect for the summer 2010 semester for the state's three research institutions and in the fall for the other three universities.