Why would one assume that out-of-state students who follow their parents to Kansas University won’t leave Kansas after graduation?
That’s what their parents did.
The assumption that KU students who have some family ties to the state are more likely to stay here after they graduate and contribute to the Kansas economy is one of the primary selling points KU administrators are using for legislation that would clear the way for a “legacy tuition” program. The program would reduce tuition for out-of-state students who have a parent, grandparent or legal guardian who graduated from KU.
In testimony this week to the House Higher Education Committee, KU officials were careful to point out that these students still would be covering the actual cost of their education at a state university. Standard out-of-state tuition is significantly higher than the actual cost of educating these students, and the legacy program would only work with the margin between that tuition and actual cost.
The legislation under consideration (House Bill 2007) actually grants broad authority for the Kansas Board of Regents to approve programs that not only offer fellowships and scholarships but waive tuition and fees for certain students. The bill doesn’t specifically mention legacy tuition programs, but that is one way it could be used.
It makes sense that waiving tuition, especially tuition that exceeds the cost of educating a student, puts less financial strain on universities than coming up with additional financial aid to offset the cost of tuition. A special program that applies that principle only to offspring of KU graduates, however, seems odd.
If universities are trying to attract top students in hopes they’ll stay in Kansas after graduation, it makes more sense to offer tuition waivers to students based on their academic potential rather than their parentage. Is there any evidence that the “legacy” angle actually increases the chances that graduates will remain in Kansas?
Most likely, the primary attraction of this plan to KU officials is their hope that alumni will provide particularly fertile ground for such an offer. If they enjoyed their KU experience, a tuition break might be just the incentive alumni need to get their children or grandchildren to take a second look at KU. From a practical standpoint, KU officials are more concerned with getting students to KU than in whether they stay in Kansas after graduation. Doing favors for alumni (i.e., potential donors) also never hurts.
Students paying out-of-state tuition always have helped subsidize the education of Kansas students, so regents and legislators should be careful how much of that money they give away in tuition waivers. It’s also interesting that university officials want to add tuition waivers to their “tool box” to attract students to KU. Perhaps this is the first step in university administrators actually admitting that the rising cost of tuition is creating barriers not only for out-of-state students but for worthy Kansas students as well.