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Archive for Sunday, December 9, 2001

Current, prospective students steel for hike

December 9, 2001

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The prospect of a big tuition increase at Kansas University has Rachel Hahn on edge.

Hahn has lived in Lawrence her entire life, and she always assumed she would attend Kansas University to study either music performance or criminal justice.

Now a senior at Lawrence High School, she's leaving her options open in case KU's price tag gets too high.

"If it does double, I'll have to think a little more about if that's really where I want to go or if there would be some other programs to consider," she said.

An increase may leave Hahn and other current and future KU students searching for ways to pay for their education or heading elsewhere to study.

KU estimates it now costs $11,400 per year for Kansas residents to attend $4,644 for room and board, $2,873 for tuition and fees, $750 for books and supplies and $3,133 for travel and miscellaneous expenses.

More than half of KU students receive financial aid. In the 1999-2000 school year the most recent period for which information was available $94.2 million in financial aid was awarded at KU. About $26.2 million was in federal, state and endowment grants, and the rest about $68 million was in loans.

Low-income help

KU Provost David Shulenburger said the university plans to add 20 percent to any tuition increase to pay for need-based financial aid. The number was based on a federal formula that calculates unmet financial need.

And the Kansas University Endowment Association has earmarked an additional $73 million for need-based financial aid in its current $500 million capital campaign.

"That should keep us as affordable to low-income students as we are now," Shulenburger said.

But Chris Johnson, associate director of Student Financial Aid, said it's too early to know whether 20 percent would balance the cost of the tuition increase.

"We don't know a lot," he said. "There are several proposals on the table for a price increase. Any price increase is going to affect the financial need of our needy students.

"With our office, our outlook is we're going to have a tuition increase, and it's going to be substantial. We will get some money to lessen the pain for students."

When the increase is approved, Johnson said, financial aid representatives will develop a plan for disbursing the additional aid money. That plan will be based on which groups of students have the most need under the new system.

But that plan won't be in place before April 1, when KU begins awarding financial aid for the fall 2002 semester. So some students might be faced with making college choices without knowing how much they would pay at KU.

"For those people, they have that dilemma right now," he said.

Timing dilemma

It's a familiar dilemma for Melessa Demo, a guidance counselor at Lawrence High School. A possible tuition increase has been on the minds of LHS students, she said.

"It's going to make an impact, but at this point we don't know what type of impact," she said. "They're already scrambling for money, but it just increases that stress."

"I think for the students that are financially strapped, that's going to impact them in a big way," she said. "Can I (afford college) or not? Or do I delay a year and raise money for it?"

Steve Grant has been saving for his children's college education for years, but he said he's not prepared for a big tuition increase.

His son, Josh, will graduate from Free State High School this month and plans to be a freshman at KU next fall. Grant, FSHS athletics director, already has a son enrolled at Kansas State and a daughter at KU.

"It would be a shock to our wallets," he said, adding that the family might have to rely more on loan and grant programs than they would have otherwise.

But the change could be worth it for his son's education, he said.

"It's like working in the public school system," he said. "If the money is there to pay quality instructors, you'll get a quality education."

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