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Archive for Wednesday, March 6, 2002

You study, you pay

March 6, 2002

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Kansas universities' long-standing reputation as an excellent educational "bargain" needs a painful modernization.

Anyone who has had to work to pay his or her way through the university education, as so many have and must continue to do, sympathizes with those confronted by steadily rising tuition costs. Kansas University is one of many schools which again is facing the stern prospect of having to boost tuition for its students.

KU, of course, is not alone; most institutions of higher education in the state and elsewhere are looking at tuition increases. The economy dictates such moves.

It is understandable that many KU students, current and future, and their parents are distraught about probable tuition hikes and are trying to prevent them. Some people now in school say they will have to drop out and work full-time for a while to meet the new financial demands. Sadly, others say such boosts will force them to terminate their pursuits of higher education degrees. That could be a serious loss.

But just as state officials and educators have to be realistic and reasonable in setting tuition increases, those fighting the hikes also must do some serious thinking.

For years, KU and its sister schools in the state have been known for the great educational bargains they have provided, especially for graduates of Kansas high schools. Non-resident tuition demands also ran low enough that many people could come here from other states and get an excellent education cheaper than they could in their home states.

But everything has been rising in cost for a long time. The fact is that Kansas schools have not charged as much in the past as they should have. The gap has caught up with them and now, in a troubled economic time, they are having to make adjustments that might seem exploitative to some.

Like state government in Topeka, KU has had to deal with a growing number of cutbacks, hiring and salary freezes while the tuition-fee schedule remained archaic. Students, present and future, have to understand that and realize that they and their parents are paying more for almost everything else. Why shouldn't that be true of the cost of higher education?

It is unfortunate college students are staring at sizable tuition-fee increases in the immediate future. It would be wonderful if the bargains could still exist.

KU and other Kansas schools should have boosted their costs some time ago but didn't in the interest of being more inclusive. They don't have that luxury anymore. The schools have to make hard choices about what to do and so do the students and those who finance them.

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