Archive for Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Incoming dean revives proposal for higher liberal arts tuition

June 20, 2006

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It failed once, but a plan to raise tuition for students of Kansas University's largest school will come up again.

"It's something that we need to begin working on immediately," Joseph Steinmetz, incoming dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said Monday.

Steinmetz doesn't officially take the reins of the 17,000-student college until July 1, but he already predicts revival of a differential tuition plan that failed two years ago. Differential tuition at KU is charged and spent within a particular school or college.

The college's new proposal may wear different clothes and call for tuition support for different items than the original proposal, but liberal arts students likely will be called on to pay more per credit hour.

"I think the funds from the differential tuition are crucial for the future of the college," Steinmetz said.

KU in 2004 floated a plan to increase tuition rates for liberal arts students by $30 per credit hour, phased in over three years. Some of the funds would have supported financial aid.

But the bulk would have been used to renovate Wescoe Hall and several other buildings and the construction of a $70 million science building. The plan flopped.

But that was two deans ago. Then-dean Kim Wilcox pursued the plan before departing for Michigan State University. Barbara Romzek served as interim dean.

And now Steinmetz is taking the office in Strong Hall. Steinmetz comes from Indiana University-Bloomington where he most recently worked as executive associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

He said he plans to discuss a differential tuition plan with administrators, faculty and students in his first year.

"I want to make sure that everybody is on the right page - from students right through to administrators," he said. "How long it takes to get everybody on that page, I don't know ... the sooner the better."

Most of KU's schools charge some level of differential tuition. The rates range from $12.50 per credit hour in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications to $120 in the School of Pharmacy.

Architecture, business, education, engineering, fine arts, law, and the Edwards campus all have differential tuition and have plans to increase the rate by 4 percent for 2006-07. The rate increase will go before the Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday.

Deans of schools with differential tuition say it's key.

Ken Audus, dean of the School of Pharmacy, said the tuition increase for pharmacy students enabled the school to make the necessary transformation from a bachelor's to a doctoral program. The tuition supports the entire pharmacy practice department, with its nearly 30 faculty members, Audus said.

"Without it, we couldn't probably have a program," Audus said.

Paul D'Anieri, associate dean of humanities in KU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said he attributed the College's failure to rally student support for the earlier plan to a couple of possible factors. It came at a time when students already were being hit with campus-wide tuition increases, he said. It's also a challenge to create an identity and develop student pride in such a large and diverse college. And, D'Anieri said, KU learned the lesson that students aren't interested in paying for buildings.

Steinmetz said a differential tuition should support the programs, faculty and initiatives that can have a noticeable impact on the students who are paying for it. He said he's not sure yet whether a future proposal will include funds for facilities.

Tuition and private fundraising are both key to improving the college, he said.

"If we're going to be a nationally ranked and nationally renowned College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, we can't ignore this source of funds," he said.

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