The Kansas University official who oversees student recruiting says KU can continue to attract students from metropolitan Kansas City, even if those students are given tuition breaks in Missouri.
Missouri's board of curators is considering whether to offer in-state tuition at its campuses in Kansas City and St. Louis to certain students in Kansas and Illinois.
In Kansas, residents of Johnson, Leavenworth, Wyandotte and Miami counties would pay in-state tuition or $141.50 per credit hour at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In Illinois, residents of Jersey, Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties would get the same benefit at the St. Louis campus.
In fall 2000, about 30 percent of students at KU's Lawrence campus came from the four counties in question. The biggest number was 6,500 from Johnson County, compared to 25,920 total students.
But Alan Cerveny, director of admissions and scholarships at KU, said he was confident the change wouldn't have a big effect on KU.
"Any time you have some institution that becomes financially attractive, that will certainly increase competition," he said. "I do think we're very aggressive in Johnson and Douglas counties with our recruiting."
Kansas universities already have "reciprocity agreements" with several states, which allow students to attend out-of-state universities while paying in-state tuition. For instance, Kansas students can pay resident tuition while attending dentistry school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City while Missouri students can do the same at KU's School of Architecture.
Cerveny said Kansas allows several community colleges to waive out-of-state tuition to nonresidents, but the Legislature hasn't approved any agreements with the state's four-year universities.
In Missouri, a task force of system administrators has studied student fees for the past year, and on Thursday the group formally recommended the plan to the curators. The change, if approved, would begin next fall.
The task force also recommended charging students different amounts to attend different campuses. Currently, the University of Missouri charges the same amount $141.50 per credit hour at each of its four campuses.
Board members accepted the report without comment. James Cofer, the University of Missouri's vice president of finance and administration, said administrators would bring the recommendations to the board for action, "probably piecemeal," next year.
The task force's recommendations were limited to undergraduate fees. A new task force will soon begin a similar study of fees paid by graduate and professional students.
Thursday was the board's last meeting of the calendar year, the meeting when administrators typically forecast student fees for the following school year. The board has typically followed up by setting those fees in January.
For the past several years the forecasts of increases of 3 to 3.5 percent have been right on the money, exactly what the board went on to approve.
But this time around is different. There was no forecast Thursday, just a warning from board president Paul Steele that the university may not be able to hold the same line another year. University officials have been hinting as much for months, citing the state's slackening economy.
In an interview, Cofer said next year's tuition may not be decided until March. "The budget situation of the state is so tenuous, we're a little apprehensive about setting student fees" in January, he said.
Public universities in several other states have already either imposed or are considering double-digit tuition increases for next year. Public universities in Illinois face more immediate money concerns. Last week, Gov. George Ryan ordered an immediate statewide spending cut of $220 million, including $25 million, or 1 percent, from the current higher education budget. Most of the $25 million will be spread among the state's community colleges and four-year universities. The University of Illinois' share, for instance, is $9 million.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.