Topeka Legislative leaders say state universities need to raise tuition, but they must proceed with caution.
The state's current model low tuition and minimal state assistance to poorer students has served Kansas well, they say.
But with state revenues falling and the pressure rising to improve the quality of higher education, they say the time is ripe to increase tuition.
"The state won't be able to provide much," said Senate President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson.
House Speaker Kent Glasscock, R-Manhattan, said higher education officials, in calling for a discussion on tuition, "saw the handwriting on the wall." State universities are at best looking at a flat budget for the next fiscal year and at worst, cuts, he said.
"It's very difficult to fund a system of higher education to a standard of excellence that we want and need," Glasscock said.
But both leaders caution higher education officials to move slowly and incrementally.
In recent weeks, Kansas University has floated several tuition increase proposals, including doubling the cost.
Glasscock said an immediate doubling of tuition is not a possibility but could be conceivable over a five- to eight-year period.
"Doubling seems to be awfully aggressive," Kerr said, noting the state would have to be careful not to price students out of going to school.
While tuition is generally under the authority of the Kansas Board of Regents, legislators have an obvious input into the discussion because they hold the purse strings to state appropriations. And the political influence of Glasscock and Kerr extends beyond their roles as legislative leaders.
Glasscock is running for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall for governor; Kerr also is considering a bid for governor.
Glasscock said any tuition increase would have to take care of the other side of the equation state assistance to students.
A recent consultant's report showed that Kansas ranked near the bottom in the United States in funds for tuition assistance.
But don't expect state government to come up with money for assistance. Any boost in student financial aid would have to come from a portion of any increase in tuition, Glasscock said.