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Archive for Sunday, May 18, 2008

Out of reach

Higher education is a valuable commodity, but Kansas University seems in danger of pricing itself out of reach for many worthy students.

May 18, 2008

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It's relatively simple for state universities - and particularly, it seems, Kansas University - to say "we need" more money to operate our schools. But no matter how they try to justify tuition increases to provide that funding, there is little doubt that they increasingly are placing a university education out of reach for many Kansas students.

At last week's meeting of the Kansas Board of Regents, the state's six universities presented proposals for fall tuition increases that ranged from 1.9 percent to 8.4 percent. Guess who was at the top? You've got it; KU.

The 8.4 percent increase will go to incoming freshmen next fall who have the supposed privilege of knowing they will pay the same tuition for four years at KU. Their tuition is based on the estimated average tuition increase over the next year, which is 7 percent. Apparently, there is little chance of more moderate increases in the years to come.

The regents had said earlier that they didn't want to see tuition increases of more than 6 percent. All of the other universities proposed increases that were below that cap, except for Kansas State University, which is asking to try a system in which they would raise tuition for juniors and seniors at the school by 7.2 percent.

On top of the tuition increases, KU students also will face a 6 percent increase in course fees and a 12.1 percent increase in required campus fees. And this is all before they have to cover their books or living expenses.

The most common justification for the proposed increases - KU's proposal was 2 percentage points above the inflation rate - is that the tuition increases were necessary to make up for a lack of state funding. One regent, however, questioned whether passing costs along to students "pressures the Legislature" to increase funding. It's a good point. In tight economic times, as we are now experiencing, many legislators probably see the increases as a failure of universities to wisely manage their funds and live within their means.

That's what Kansas families have to do, and every time tuition goes up, it becomes more difficult for some families to afford to send a child to a state university. Officials like to point out that financial aid also is being increased, but that aid often is unavailable to students with marginal need or academic records and studies have indicated that the mass of paperwork to obtain aid is difficult for many families to navigate.

One effect of higher university tuition is likely to be more students enrolling in community colleges, where they can start their higher education at a lower cost. That isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as community colleges are providing high quality classes that will transfer easily to university credit.

A more unfortunate outcome, however, is what seems to be a slow movement toward a four-year university education becoming a luxury for the elite. Students with marginal academic skills but adequate financial resources will be able to pursue university degrees while less financially able students, even those with greater academic talent, will be left behind.

University officials may contend that won't happen, but if university tuition continues to outpace inflation - not to mention struggling families' incomes - common sense tells us it will.

Comments

jonas 5 years, 11 months ago

Gareth (Anonymous) says:"The cost to attend KU is ridiculously LOW, compared to other universities and colleges nation-wide.Then again, you also get what you pay for."Speak for yourself. I go to KU, and I'm sitting in a board-room in Pudong District, Shanghai on lunch, getting ready to talk to the vice-CEO for Boeing's Shanghai MRO facility.

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Gareth 5 years, 11 months ago

The cost to attend KU is ridiculously LOW, compared to other universities and colleges nation-wide. Then again, you also get what you pay for.

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stuckinthemiddle 5 years, 11 months ago

when I attended KU... quite some time ago... I had professors who did little research and published little to nothing... but they were great teachers...on the other hand I had some professors who were so involved in their research that they had little time for students and teaching...I did have a couple of professors who managed to do it both... teach and produce researched publications... but that was the exception:given a choice... I'd take the professor who is dedicated to teaching... very few students benefit from a professors research... maybe a few grad students... and a rare undergrad or two...there are professors who can't manage to do either: teach or publish:and I believe KU was ground breaking in firing one of those a number of years ago:

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jayhawkato 5 years, 11 months ago

bennyoates says "I'll await convincing, documented evidence of freeloading professors before I believe rumors about how it would help tuition costs to go after them. The above comment suggests resentful anti-intellectualism more than engagement with the situation's realities."I'm not an anti-intellectualist. I apologize that "so many lazy tenure-track professors" may be inaccurate and exaggerated. But if you go to some department's website, you will find out some professors became inactive in research after promoted to associate professor. Or you could ask current students about this.

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CommonCents 5 years, 11 months ago

Well, the fact is the LJW writes countless editorials about KU tuition, but never looks at the issue holistically, and pokes jabs at the 4-year tuition compact ("supposed privilege"). Tuition increases are a national issue, not something just limited to Kansas. And if you look at Big 12 institutions tution, KU is still in the bottom half. And once again, why should I take them seriously if all the LJW editors do is continue to use KU's name incorrectly and on purpose?The bottom line is an 8.4% increase amounts to the equivalent of a 2.1% increase for each year of the 4 years tuition compact for incoming students. That is not a bad deal.

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BalkansHawk 5 years, 11 months ago

As a very proud alum of the University of Kansas, it saddens me to think that my boys won't have the financial means to attend the same school that I did. I don't make the kind of money that will allow me to support them at the rate tuition is increasing (not to mention books, fees, living expenses, etc). Rock Chalk, wish my boys could be Jayhawks, KU.

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bennyoates 5 years, 11 months ago

I'll await convincing, documented evidence of freeloading professors before I believe rumors about how it would help tuition costs to go after them. The above comment suggests resentful anti-intellectualism more than engagement with the situation's realities.A more plausible start to remedying the problem would be to do what Harvard, Brown, and other universities with large endowments are doing--tap into that wealth to make tuition free for qualified students whose parents wouldn't be able to pay. Not saying that KU's endowment is comparable to those other schools, but it's worth a look. Assuming, of course, that we still believe in education as a resource for equal opportunity in this country.

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CommonCents 5 years, 11 months ago

Until the LJ-World decides to start referring to KU by it's actual name, The University of Kansas, this silly 'newspaper' has no credibility or business to be writing an opinion piece about KU, let alone this kind of redundant, over-generalized editorial.

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jayhawkato 5 years, 11 months ago

"At last week's meeting of the Kansas Board of Regents, the state's six universities presented proposals for fall tuition increases that ranged from 1.9 percent to 8.4 percent. Guess who was at the top? You've got it; KU."You can't compare KU with Emporia State, FHSU or PSU because university mission is different. KU is a member of AAU and is committed to offering the highest quality of undergraduate, professional and graduate programs. Running research university like KU is expensive. But raising tuition doesn't necessarily improve the quality of education at KU. Like littlejohnny says, there are so many lazy tenure-track professors just teaching and doing nothing else. I don't understand why Hemenway has never brought up this issue.Unless pushing those lazy professors to do high-quality research or letting them go, KU will be the "worst buy" for many worthy students. Students are spending huge amount of money to get world-class education from high-quality professors who are excellent in both research and education, not from lecturer-like professors.

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littlejohnny 5 years, 11 months ago

I don't know how many people realize that KU has substantial number of professors sitting on tenure status and do no research. Squeezing money out of Kansas families and allocating portion of increased revenue for those lazy professors' pay raises are extremely unfair to all Kansas families, current students and hard-working professors.I think before raising tuition, KU should revise the reward system or even eliminate tenure to re-emphasize teaching, not only maintain the pressure for publication but require faculty to subordinate their teaching to the quest for external funding. Otherwise, KU will be pricing itself out of market for many worthy students near in the future.

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