Starting in 2007, Kansas University students should have a much better idea of how much a four-year education will cost.
KU officials have said they plan to propose a "guaranteed tuition" plan to the Kansas Board of Regents. The plan would lock in tuition rates for four years for undergraduate students, giving a families a more precise amount of money they'll need to save for their children's time in college and incoming freshmen an incentive to finish in four years.
It sounds like a simple concept, but plenty of details remain to be hashed out before the plan is presented to the regents.
"It will travel slowly as we fine-tune things with the administration," said Nick Sterner, student body president.
Specifically, those fine-tunings involve:
l Whether to include tuition rates specific to individual KU schools in the plan. All KU school besides the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the School of Social Welfare now have "differential tuition" rates above the base tuition for students taking courses in the schools.
Initial plans excluded those additional rates from the guaranteed tuition plan, in part because students transfer among schools and partly because students entering as freshmen sometimes are admitted to their schools of choice several years into their college careers, and they aren't guaranteed admission to their schools. Administrators have said including the differential rates may be too complicated.
Sterner said he hoped it's not too late to include students' entire tuition bill in the guaranteed tuition program.
"I'm hoping so," he said. "The current status is that it's not. I'd like to see some more discussion about it. I hope there's room for discussion."
David Shulenburger, provost and executive vice chancellor, said he'd be willing to talk but admitted "that's a difficult one to work through."
l Deciding how to handle programs intended to take more than four years for completion.
Several KU programs, including architecture, a five-year program, are intended to last more than four years for students.
Shulenburger said one possibility would be that those students would be guaranteed tuition rates for two years, then charged higher rates for the remainder of their careers.
l Whether transfer students from community colleges and other institutions should be included in the guaranteed tuition plan.
Both Sterner and Shulenburger said they're not sure how to handle those students. It may remain the main sticking point on the proposal.
"We need to spend some time thinking about that," Shulenburger said. "I'm not sure there's a solution."
"That's something we need to work out," Sterner said. "That's something we still have to iron out, for sure."
Though the details remain to be worked out, the overall concept was received warmly by the Board of Regents in May, when it was first floated.
Regent Frank Gaines of Hamilton said he hoped other universities would consider a similar plan in 2007, when the six state universities complete a five-year tuition plan that, in many cases, raises tuition rates significantly.
"I think that would do lots, lots, lots if all universities can get that built in," he said.