Recent tuition increases at Kansas University served to prevent a bad situation from getting worse, KU officials said this week.
But the tuition revenue won’t fill the hole left by all the budget cuts this year, said Danny Anderson, KU’s interim provost.
“We’re just not getting deeper,” he said.
The increase allowed KU to maintain its four-year guaranteed tuition compact — something that remains popular with students’ parents, Anderson said — and included mitigation against projected cuts.
However, Anderson estimated KU would have had to raise tuition 51 percent at the Medical Center campus and 14 percent on the Lawrence campus to make up for all the budget reductions and unfunded mandates on both campuses, which amount to more than a $36.6 million loss.
That will mean fewer course sections being offered and larger classes next semester on the KU campus. As faculty retirements and resignations come up this fiscal year, KU will face hard decisions about whether to replace them, Anderson said. KU already eliminated 55 faculty positions as part of earlier budget cuts.
The $9.8 million estimated revenue generated by tuition dollars was figured using enrollment data from several previous years, Anderson said. Though KU posted a record enrollment in fall 2008, the fall 2009 numbers are projected to taper off to pre-2008 levels, he said.
He attributed the drop-off to a declining number of Kansas high school graduates, but said KU could not handle a similarly sized increase to last year with the budget reductions already in place.
Anderson said for every fewer faculty member in some areas like allied health and nursing, that means those programs cannot admit as many students in order to maintain appropriate student-to-teacher ratios for accreditation purposes. Engineering also faces a similar situation, he said.
Mason Heilman, student body president and Lawrence senior, said that while he supported the tuition increases because of low state funding, things like larger class sizes and fewer course offerings were bad for students.
“I’m in education, so I can tell you that increasing class sizes benefits no one,” Heilman said, adding that a timid student may have a more difficult time getting up the nerve to ask a question in a classroom with more students than normal.
Deeper cuts — which remain a possibility — would likely further impact personnel, Anderson said. Layoffs would remain a last resort for the university, he added.
The university has investigated several different furlough plans under which employees would take a certain amount of unpaid leave, Anderson said, but it remains too early to tell if such measures would be needed.
In an earlier round of cuts, KU opted to avoid an approach that would have been more across-the-board, choosing instead to eliminate its Learning Communities office.
That program offered freshmen the opportunity to co-enroll in courses with a group of other students, and included small interactive learning groups with faculty and staff, along with social and other co-curricular activities.
The cost of the program ended up outweighing its benefit to students, and so cuts to other areas were spared, Anderson said.
In adjusting to meet previous budget cuts, KU has reduced spending in its administrative areas to prop up its academic areas, but Anderson said he didn’t think that trend could continue into the future if more cuts were ordered.