Archive for Saturday, September 16, 2006

Simons: KU, state officials shouldn’t overlook impact of rising tuition

September 16, 2006


It's fairly obvious a recent feature story in USA Today about the rising costs of a college education, accompanied by a chart showing the percentage of tuition and fee increases at 75 flagship universities in 50 states has captured the attention of Kansas University officials - and the public.

The report showed only four universities with a higher percentage increase in tuition for in-state students from the 2002-03 school year to the present than the increase at KU. Only three universities had higher increases for the 2005-06 school year to the current year. The increases for out-of-state students have not been as severe.

There has been considerable discussion and reaction to the USA Today story, with some at KU expressing displeasure at the manner in which this story has been reported or interpreted.

This writer noted the major increases in tuition at KU and other Kansas Board of Regents universities and suggested there will come a time when students and parents will say "enough is enough, we can't afford the continued tuition and fee increases at KU if the current trend continues."

Unfortunately, the attitude of some at KU seems to be, "You (students and parents) should be appreciative of how we have kept our tuition so low. You are getting a first-rate education at a bargain price. You shouldn't complain."

Much of this may be true, but it is arrogant and politically dumb for KU officials to suggest students and parents, or the media, don't know or understand the facts.

The fact is tuition costs have risen significantly at KU over the past five years. And no matter how these figures are justified, it still is costing students and their parents more dollars to go to KU. In many areas of the state, the economy is poor, and parents already are stretched financially to meet family needs. There comes a time when they cannot afford to pay more for their children's college education if they want to attend KU, Kansas State or any state university. Costs are going up at every school.

It should be noted that members of the Board of Regents should be concerned about this matter and far more involved in the costs to attend the universities under their supervision. Regents have many responsibilities, and an increasing number of individuals interested in the state's higher education program are questioning just how much attention they give to the fiscal management of the universities and the annual requests for higher tuition.

In addition to the constant drumbeat of KU being a bargain and its tuition being in the middle among its peer institutions, the other justification for the significant increases seems to be a newly released figure quoted by the new KU provost, Richard Lariviere, reporting that 56 percent of KU seniors had no student loan debt when they graduated.

In other words, KU's tuition must not be that crippling for KU students and the school probably could continue to raise tuition and fees without significantly damaging the pocketbook of a high percentage of students.

This is dangerous thinking. Just this week, the KU student newspaper carried a front page headline saying "Rising tuition, living costs compel students to spend more time at work." Concern about tuition increases at KU is not new, nor is it limited to Kansas universities. It is a matter of concern throughout the country.

In the USA Today list of 75 universities, KU ranked 32nd for tuition costs for the current year. Among the Big 12 schools listed, the University of Texas, University of Missouri and Texas A&M; have higher tuition and fees, with Iowa State, Nebraska, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Colorado and Oklahoma State charging lower rates. Baylor and Texas Tech were not listed.

Dollar-wise, KU is about in the middle, but regardless of where KU may be, either in actual dollars or in the percentage of increase, parents and students have been hit with a 76.6 percent increase in tuition and fees since 2002-03. Whether in dollars or percentages, the KU price tag has risen considerably and it is going to cost more in the years to come.

Parents and students alike are going to have to figure out how to come up with the dollars to pay the increased costs, even though it is "a bargain," "in the mid-range of KU's peer institutions" and about in the middle of the USA Today listings.

Excellence costs; there's no way around it. If KU is to have any hope of reaching Chancellor Robert Hemenway's challenging, but questionable, goal of being in the top 25 of the nation's state-aided universities and eventually in the top 25 of all U.S. universities, there will have to be significant increases in tuition. History shows the state is unlikely to come up with higher percentages of operating budgets, and it is questionable how much more private donors can be expected to contribute. It will cost many millions of additional dollars to attract, expand and retain a truly outstanding faculty.

Outstanding faculty and superior students, along with excellent facilities, is the combination needed to climb into the top 25 of either state-aided or all U.S. universities.

Can, or will, students and parents be able to pay another 76.6 percent over the next four years to go into KU's drive for excellence, or are there sufficient fiscal resources elsewhere to elevate KU to a higher level of academic excellence? Will the state allow KU to implement higher academic qualification for those wishing to enroll at KU?

Regardless of the answers to these questions, the attitude of KU officials should be a bit more sympathetic to the current fiscal burden on students and parents.

Hopefully, the USA Today report and subsequent comments by observers has and will cause university administrators, as well as the regents and state legislators, to take a more careful look at the cost of a college education in Kansas.


Richard Heckler 11 years, 9 months ago

Instead of raising tuition the athletic department should cover those costs. Any deparment that can offer mutimillion dollar contracts, afford to buy out coaches and provide golden parachutes perhaps could afford to help students. Without students where would be the need for college sports?

Shardwurm 11 years, 9 months ago

The middle class (i.e. the majority of us) are the ones taking the beating in this deal.

Poor people get grants and scholarships. Rich people don't care (and are a smaller percentage of the population.)

So what does this mean? It means the middle class - the bedrock of our economy - is spawning a whole generation of young workers who are strapped with $50 - $100k of debt the moment they step out of college.

What's the payback time on a college education? A LONG time. A kid could go to a votech and become a computer technician and a college graduate may take 10 to 15 years to catch him/her on income after taking into account the loan debt they have.

The system is squeezing us and making the prospects of an under-educated generation of workers more and more likely.

When we filled out our FAFSA form the government told me we could afford to give our daughter $26k A YEAR to go to school! LOL! I'm as middle class as they come.

It's a tragedy.

yourworstnightmare 11 years, 9 months ago

The costs of running a research university have skyrocketed.

State funding to KU has held flat or decreased, and the per-student state funding has dramatically dropped.

KU's tuition, even after the recent tuition increases, is still in the middle of the Big 12, which has some of the lowest tuition in the country.

You can't have it both ways. If you want low tuition at KU, make sure your elected officials fund KU to the proper levels. Otherwise, get ready for even higher tuition.

Jamesaust 11 years, 9 months ago

People will pony up to pay high tuition as long as they judge it to be better than the alternative. Based on the rational decisions of millions, it would seem that it is.

A better focus would be on finding means to aid students and their families in getting over the 'iniation' costs of getting started.

Any business enterprise has a variety of means of raising capital to operate, but fall under two categories: debt or equity. Why is college funding ONLY debt? Why not equity?

This is particularly true for the higher cost / higher benefit graduate programs? Why cannot an alternative be offered in place of debt that requires a remittance of equity in the future earnings of graduates?

Actuaries can work out the detail but, for example, we know quite a lot what this year's KU Med class will look like over future decades - approximately how much they will earn, how many will become disabled or die, etc.: the stuff actuaries need to set a 'break-even' amount of remittance necessary to pay for financial assistance extended. (My guess is less than 2% of future earnings.)

All persons must, under criminal sanction, report income to the IRS. 'Borrowers' can be required to turn over this information along with payment to a Trust. High earners will remit more; low earners will remit less. On balance, the debt of the class as a whole will be paid off over their working lives.

LiberalDude 11 years, 9 months ago

Dolph sure comes across as being anti-KU. How many articles has he written ripping KU in the past few months. Yes, we all get tuition has gone up remarkably in the past 10 years. What does he want KU to do, start lowering tuition and turn into another Wichita St., Emporia St., etc.? I think most people in Kansas like the idea of having one or two prestigious universities in the state and are willing to pay more for them. It's not like students have stopped enrolling at KU in record amounts!

middleoftheroad 11 years, 9 months ago

I agree with better believe that Dolph would throw a fit and continue to rip on KU if academics started to suffer (ie: the loss in grant money that was not renewed) but yet he continues to write these irresponsible articles with ridiculous suggestions. If he took the time to gather facts and truly LISTEN to those at KU, he would know that Chancellor Hemmingway does not plan on raising tuition in the near future. In fact, he's encouraging the BOR to allow KU to have fixed tuition rates so students aren't faced with this problem. His suggestion that tuition will raise another 76% over the next four years is completely wrong, ridiculous and incredibly responsible!!! It's unfortunate that someone with his "influence" chooses to spend his time and paper space writing about something that is not news, is not uncommon and is already being worked on. Moving on...

Sigmund 11 years, 9 months ago

I get the impression from Dolph's recent editorials that he would like to see KU return to the days where it was an educational bargain. I think he was opposed to Chancellor Hemmingway's new direction for the University towards a Research Institution, but willing to wait and see how it worked out. With KU's recent embarrassing performance and skyrocketing costs Dolph is concerned KU is neither a bargain nor a center for research. I tend to agree with him.

My preference is for KU to become focused on its past strengths and strive to be a great teaching University by focusing its resources and budget towards teaching students with real teachers and not TA's.

Sigmund 11 years, 9 months ago

It hardly seems worth mentioning that once again Merrill's solution is to take away stuff from the successful and give it to the failing.

LiberalDude 11 years, 9 months ago

What embarrassing performance are you speaking of? KU seems to be doing quite well right now.

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