Archive for Monday, July 6, 2009

State Budget Watch: Tuition disparities put into context

July 6, 2009


On June 25, Kansas higher education officials approved tuition increases at all regents universities, including a 6 percent increase at Kansas University for many students, and a 7 percent increase on the four-year compact for incoming freshmen.

The action occurred one day after Oklahoma higher education officials approved freezing tuition and fees at their schools, saying the freeze was needed to help struggling families in the current economy.

That prompted questions from some readers on how Oklahoma can hold the line on tuition but Kansas can’t?

The short answer is that the Oklahoma Legislature treated its higher education system better than the Kansas Legislature treated its system.

There are many ways to count higher education dollars, but taking into account federal stimulus dollars, Oklahoma higher education officials say their system actually experienced a 3 percent increase in funding.

In Kansas, including federal stimulus funding, higher education has fallen from $829 million in fiscal year 2008 to an $805 million appropriation in the current fiscal year, which is fiscal year 2010, according to the Kansas Legislative Research Department. That is about a 3 percent cut. But that cut has since gotten deeper because of Gov. Mark Parkinson’s budget allotments of last week, when he cut higher education another 2 percent.

And the picture gets even darker for Kansas higher education because regents universities have been told to direct two-thirds of stimulus funds for deferred maintenance projects. Oklahoma has more freedom in using its federal stimulus funds.

Still, the cost of OU is less than KU. In-state undergraduates taking a standard load of 30 credit hours over two semesters will pay $6,493 in tuition and fees, according to The Associated Press. At KU, that cost will be $7,414 for many students, and $8,204 for freshmen, although that freshman rate will be locked in for four years.

But Jack Martin, deputy director of KU’s Office of University Communications, said the AP report left out a mandatory $930 “academic excellence fee” at OU. That makes costs more similar.

On a side note, OU President David Boren said the athletic department at OU raised its annual support for academic programs from $4 million to more than $7 million. What is that figure at KU? According to Martin, “Overall, net support and benefits provided by Kansas Athletics to the university totaled $11.8 million in FY 2009. This total includes the tuition Kansas Athletics pays for student athletes’ academic expenses. A large number of these student-athletes are from out of state, meaning their nonresident tuition helps subsidize the education of Kansas students.”

Tax increase?

With the effects of state budget cuts getting more serious, one reader commented that it’s time to consider a tax increase. “In that way, we would all pitch in and do our parts to eliminate this crisis,” he said in an e-mail.

Indeed, Kansas has cut taxes significantly in recent years, and continues to do so even in the face of drastic budget cuts. But the political reality is that an overwhelming majority of state elected officials have no appetite to increase taxes. Even so, there are some who make strong arguments for tax increases.

In a recent interview with KTKA-TV in Topeka, Gov. Mark Parkinson said, “Raising taxes is not a good thing to do in a recession because it drains money from the system at a time when the system needs money flowing to keep the economy going.”

But after last week, when Parkinson cut public schools and higher education another 2 percent to balance the budget, Parkinson said a tax increase may need to be among options, if state revenues don’t recover over the next year.


KU_cynic 8 years, 5 months ago

Mr. Rothschild, the short answer may very well be "that the Oklahoma Legislature treated its higher education system better than the Kansas Legislature treated its system."

But doesn't finding the longer and more substantive answers require an analysis of how the composition both of state revenues and state spending differs between Oklahoma and Kansas?

I don't discount politics, but it's more than simply political will; it's a matter of economics.

I'm disappointed by this dumbed-down edition of "State Budget Watch".

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 5 months ago

Reality Check,

Help me understand how your reference to Jesus has any relevance to your comments about higher and lower tuition rates for students choosing different career paths.

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 5 months ago

"With the effects of state budget cuts getting more serious, one reader commented that it’s time to consider a tax increase. 'In that way, we would all pitch in and do our parts...'"

Perhaps I should just forward my checking account number to the state so I can help pay for this reader's kid's college.

Jack Martin 8 years, 5 months ago

The information we provided on OU's tuition comes from the OU Bursar's Office Web site: It shows that the annual tuition for a new student starting at OU in 2008-09 was $7,423.

Additionally, looking at state funding on a per-student basis, OU receives $1,026 more per year from the state than does KU. In FY 2008, the most recent year for which full figures are available, OU received state funding of $7,374 per full-time student, while KU received $6,348.

Jack Martin University Communications

sarahsmilehawk 8 years, 5 months ago

KU is still one of the most affordable schools in the country. It's about $11,476 to attend Minnesota in-state.

situveux1 8 years, 5 months ago

The cuts in the past few years can not solely account for the budget problems the state now faces. The simple fact is since 2003, state spending has increased 48%, with most of that coming from court ordered increases in education funding. The last section of that story might as well have been an editorial because it does not reflect factual evidence.

Further, taxes have in fact been increasing for some time. In 2003 the state sales tax increased 0.3% due to our last state budget crisis. That, in addition to several fees, was the answer. The fact this reporter chose to focus on tax cuts and ignore the tax increases that have occurred on a regular basis over the years shows a very unhealthy bias.

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