It looks like incoming freshmen at Kansas University will be paying more and getting less next year.
In a May proposal, KU officials asked the Kansas Board of Regents to allow it to raise tuition for Kansas residents by 5.3 percent. KU said Tuesday afternoon that it had given the regents a new tuition proposal, but officials wouldn’t provide any information about the plan before the regents meeting on Thursday. It’s possible that KU has changed its mind and won’t seek a tuition increase, but it seems unlikely.
Ironically, also on this week’s regents agenda is a second proposal from KU to reduce the number of required instructional days from 150 to 146. KU defended the reduction in days by presenting a survey of 13 schools in other states that all required fewer than 150 days.
The regents staff, which is recommending the change be approved, said, “Over the past two decades, higher education emphasis has tended toward assessing and documenting results rather than merely counting seat time for students.”
That’s an interesting statement. If instructional time at KU doesn’t qualify as something more than “seat time,” then it’s true that reducing class days will make little difference. If, however, time spent in class is important to the “results” that these institutions document, the loss of even four instructional days would seem significant.
The regents apparently have given up any hope of holding tuition rates steady this year at the six state universities. They told state legislators that if their budget was cut by no more than 7 percent, they would not raise tuition. Legislators approved cuts that were deeper than that, and the regents now feel compelled to allow universities to raise tuition even though the stagnant economy may make it more difficult for Kansas families to afford those increases.
It should be noted that 40 percent of KU undergraduates will see no increase because they are part of the university’s tuition “compact” that guarantees that their tuition won’t increase for four years. Should that figure be a little higher considering that the compact has covered all incoming freshmen for the last two years?
At any rate, the upward march of university tuition appears likely to continue unabated. So far, enrollment numbers are holding up, but common sense tells us that rising tuition and fees are bound to be pricing some Kansas students out of the higher education market or forcing them to take on debt that will take many years to pay off.
Whether that situation is the fault of universities or the legislators who won’t properly fund them is open to debate, but we know who is paying the price.