Topeka — Tuition at Kansas University would be nearly 16 percent more for incoming freshmen than current levels, but their tuition rate would be frozen for four years under a plan unveiled Thursday by school officials.
It's called the "Four-Year Tuition Compact" and was presented by KU to the Kansas Board of Regents, which will vote on the proposal at its June meeting.
"We want to get away from the whipsaw effect of tuition increases over the past 30 years," KU Provost Richard Lariviere said.
For other students, KU is proposing a 7.3 percent increase in tuition and fees for resident undergraduates and 6.5 percent for nonresident undergraduates.
And KU has asked for a 7.3 percent increase in tuition and fees for resident graduate students and a 6.6 percent for nonresident graduate students, according to figures provided by the regents.
Under the tuition compact proposal, first-time freshmen this fall at KU would pay a fixed tuition rate for four years. Housing costs would be frozen in two-year increments, and course and campus fees would be projected in four-year schedules.
The proposal would charge resident freshmen $213 per credit hour, which is 15.9 percent more than the current rate of $183.75. For full-time, resident freshmen, tuition would be $3,408 per semester, which is $468 more than this year.
But the per-credit-hour tuition would stay at that rate for four years.
Lariviere said this would give students certainty in planning school costs and encourage them to finish their degree in four years. The provost estimated it would cost students an extra $1,000 per semester if they didn't complete their degree in four years.
And, he said, it would save them money in the long run because historically, tuition has increased 9 percent annually for each of the past 30 years.
Asked how KU would hedge against inflation, Lariviere noted that each year KU would be seeking a new tuition rate for the incoming freshman class. And he said in case of a national catastrophe, KU would go back to the students for "a dialogue."
Hannah Love, KU student body president, said she supported the proposal, especially given the double-digit tuition increases of recent years.
"I think it is a solution to help stabilize those numbers and curb those increases that we continue to see," said Love, a junior from Dodge City.
Resident tuition and fees at KU increased:
¢ 20.8 percent in 2002-03.
¢ 17.7 percent in 2003-04.
¢ 15.5 percent in 2004-05.
¢ 14.3 percent in 2005-06.
¢ 13.7 percent for 2006-07.
Regents asked numerous questions about the four-year proposal.
Janie Perkins of Garden City said she was concerned that the plan front-loaded costs on the group of students - freshmen - who are most likely to leave school. At KU, one in five freshmen don't continue school after the first year.
"I just feel that many of the freshmen will be paying that extra money and not continuing on," Perkins said.
Lariviere said the dropout rate was unacceptable but was related more to students' readiness than tuition rates. He said the state needs to allow KU to bolster its admission standards.
Regent Dan Lykins of Topeka said he was concerned about students who change majors and would need more than four years to graduate.
And one KU student Thursday called the proposed increase for students other than freshmen "unfortunate."
Kelly Sands is working on a double major in illustration and graphic design in the School of Fine Arts. To complete his graphic design major, he must take a six-hour course next fall.
"I didn't know actually how I was going to pay for it. Luckily, I got a scholarship," said the 26-year-old senior who worked in Overland Park before enrolling at KU.
Sands said he has mostly relied on student loans, grants and his job at a Lawrence restaurant to pay for his education. To help pay for his final course, Sands won a scholarship at an art show in the fine arts school.
Regents Chairman Nelson Galle of Manhattan said he was impressed with KU's proposal. "If this works, we need to get a patent on this," he said.
Regent Christine Downey-Schmidt of Inman said the wide range of tuition proposals from the regents universities showed that Kansas schools were trying to address their individual needs.
"They're all dealing with declining state support yet increased competition for faculty and students," she said.
Kansas State proposed a 7.9 percent increase in tuition and fees for resident students; Wichita State, 6.4 percent; Emporia State, 9.5 percent, Pittsburg State, 7.1 percent, and Fort Hays State, 5.1 percent.
Lariviere said KU's proposal was on the cutting edge on tuition issues, which he described as "both exciting and nerve-racking."
Love, the student body president, said the proposal "is kind of scary, but in the long run it does kind of level it out for the students."
- Staff writer George Diepenbrock contributed to this story.