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Archive for Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Tuition inflation

A chart comparing tuition increases at 75 U.S. universities deserves the attention of Kansas higher education officials.

September 5, 2006

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Members of the Kansas Legislature, the Kansas Board of Regents, Kansas University officials and parents of young men and women who are attending or hope to attend KU in coming years all should look at a recent chart in USA TODAY.

The chart reports tuition and fees at 75 schools the paper calls "public flagship universities in 50 states." The figures reported are for first-year, full-time freshmen and include all mandatory and major-specific fees assessed for students in basic liberal arts and sciences programs.

KU's ranking on this chart raises many questions and concerns.

For in-state students, only three universities among the 75 listed had raised their fees and tuition more than KU's 13.7 percent increase for the current school year. For the change from the 2002-03 school year to the 2006-07 school year, only four universities had surpassed the 76.6 percent increase that occurred at KU.

It is interesting to note out-of-state students at KU have not been hit as hard as Kansas residents. Increases on Mount Oread for non-resident students rank ninth in the nation for the past two years and 19th since the 2002-03 school year.

KU officials and the Board of Regents continue to say the increases paid by students and their parents are merely bringing KU tuition up to a rate comparable with peer universities and that being a student KU still is a financial bargain. It may be a bargain, but it is becoming an increasingly high bill for parents and students. At what point will KU start pricing itself out of business in the eyes of the average citizen?

The jump in tuition rates could be attributed to many factors:

¢ The state is not paying its share of the cost of providing a good, challenging academic experience at the state's universities.

¢ KU officials want to provide more than just an average educational experience.

¢ Because of the state's failure to provide sufficient funding, the universities have had to impose higher fees to catch up.

¢ Higher tuition and fees are needed to attract better faculty members who, in turn, will attract better students.

¢ KU's often-mentioned goal of becoming one of the nation's top 25 state-aided universities carries with it a large price tag.

¢ Is it possible KU officials are not being as efficient as they should be in the expenditure of available funding?

¢ Shortfalls must be made up by taxing students and their parents additional dollars to attend the school.

Students, parents of students, state legislators and regents should be far more sensitive to KU's tuition and fees than they have been to date. Too often, the official line is that KU is not out of line and that Kansans should be thankful and appreciative for the bargain price they pay for a superior academic experience.

This is far too cavalier an attitude, and regents need to exercise far more oversight on how the state's universities are managed.

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