Topeka Students attending the state's six universities will pay $39 million more in tuition this fall, an increased approved Thursday by the Kansas Board of Regents.
Students attending Kansas University and taking 15 credit hours will pay $2,081 for the semester, or $318 more than last year - an 18 percent increase. Both the percentage and dollar inrease are the largest in the state.
The board's vote was unanimous, but several regents said they felt forced to approve the increase because the state Legislature has been stingy with tax dollars for higher education.
"We have to act because the Legislature has failed to act for so long," said Regent Deryl Wynn, of Kansas City, Kan. "We would rather not do this."
The increases for Kansas residents taking 15 credit hours of undergraduate courses range from 8.9 percent at Fort Hays State University to 18 percent at the University of Kansas. The regents first reviewed the tuition proposals last month.
The universities will use some of the money for special initiatives designed to boost faculty salaries or improve selected programs. However, much of the money raised will cover increasing operating costs, such as higher health insurance premiums.
"Would it help if we just became a second-rate institution?" said University of Kansas Chancellor Robert Hemenway. "Certainly, the feelings we've gotten from the regents is that you want us to do everything possible to be a first-rate institution."
This year, legislators appropriated $706 million in general tax revenues for the higher education system for the 2004-05 academic year. That's only $1.5 million more than they appropriated for the 2001-02 academic year -- not enough, according to the regents, to cover higher operating costs.
"To me, it's scandalous the way many legislators brag about refusing to consider any tax increase for anything, including education," said Regent Lew Ferguson.
Changes in tuition at state universities for the fall semester for undergraduates from Kansas taking 15 credit hours:
University of Kansas: Current - $1,763 New - $2,081 Increase - $318 Percent - 18.0
Kansas State University Current - $1,755 New - $2,055 Increase - $300 Percent - 17.1
Wichita State University Current - $1,433 New - $1,575 Increase - $142 Percent - 9.9
Emporia State University Current - $1,100 New - $1,205 Increase - $105 Percent - 9.5
Fort Hays State University Current - $1,016 New - $1,107 Increase - $91 Percent - 8.9
Pittsburg State University Current - $1,175 New - $1,316 Increase - $141 Percent - 12.0
Source: State Board of Regents.