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Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2003

Budget cuts prompt increase in tuition

August 16, 2003

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Incoming freshman Nathan Markham wasn't exactly looking forward to paying more at Kansas University this fall.

Tuition rates rose to $1,763.25 per semester for Markham and other undergraduates from Kansas taking 15 hours each semester. That's up 20.7 percent over last year.

"Raising tuition like this year is one thing," said Markham, who graduated from Lawrence Free State High School in May. "But it's going to be hard if they do it every year. By the time I'm done, it's going to be really high."

KU officials said the increases were necessary to keep improving the university during times of state budget cuts, and they insisted they're not pricing students out of an education.

They noted they've set aside 20 percent of the increases for need-based financial aid. And they cited statistics showing KU still had low tuition compared to its peers -- its rates were the third lowest of the 34 public universities that are members of Association of American Universities, one of KU's comparison groups.

But Donna Shank, a member of the Kansas Board of Regents from Liberal, worries that some students won't seek education after high school because of the increases. The range of tuition increases for the fall was 9.8 percent at Fort Hays State University to 21.1 percent at Pittsburg State University.

"The trend is to shift away from state funds to where the burden is being borne by students," she said. "I'm reluctant at a time with a bad economy, and the need for higher education is so much greater, to raise the cost. ... We have to stop and think how far we want to go down this road in the future."

Last year, KU used the approximately $8.6 million generated from tuition increases for enhancements, including technology improvements, graduate teaching assistant salaries, additional faculty and operating budget increases for schools and departments.

This year's list of improvements are similar. David Shulenburger, provost and executive vice chancellor, said students should be able to see a difference with their tuition dollars.

"They're getting something for their money," he said.

Andy Knopp, student body president, said he's been pleased with the administration's process for implementing the tuition hikes. KU officials have met with a student committee to discuss how the money will be spent.

And Knopp said he's glad KU is spending the money on educational improvements, instead of filling holes left by state budget cuts, as some other universities have.

"It's the same thing as last year," he said. "Nobody likes to pay more, but students understand and appreciate the university's commitment for using the funds for real enhancements that are important to us."

Lindy Eakin, vice provost, said KU doesn't have any plans to stray from its original commitment to students for educational improvements.

"We're able to tell students: We're taking this money, setting it aside and doing enhancements with it," he said. "I'm sure that's a fine distinction to most people out there."

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