Topeka Anticipating another round of budget cuts, the Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday approved a 6 percent tuition increase for many students at Kansas University, and a 7 percent increase on the four-year compact for the incoming freshman class.
“We’ve all been told it’s reasonable to expect additional cuts,” said KU interim provost Danny Anderson. “We felt like we needed to plan ahead.”
Higher education was already hit by a 10 percent cut in the recently completed legislative session, and KU officials say they may face another 5 percent whack in the next week or so because of the ever-worsening state revenue situation.
As an indication of the slumping economy, the tuition rate represented an increase over what KU proposed as recently as last month.
Regent Donna Shank said she feared the newest proposal, which wasn’t publicly unveiled by the regents until shortly before it was acted upon, would make it too costly for some to attend KU.
“The reason we have declining revenues is because Kansans have declining incomes,” she said.
Plus, she said, it was unwise to assume further state budget cuts because no one has been able to accurately predict what the economy will do.
Regent Gary Sherrer also opposed KU’s increase, but blamed the Legislature for continuing the phase-out of several taxes while cutting budgets for education.
“The Legislature absolutely failed its responsibility,” he said.
Both Shank and Sherrer said they could have supported KU’s original request for a 4 percent tuition increase, and 6 percent freshmen increase.
But Regent Dan Lykins said even with the newest proposal, KU and the other regent universities were still “a great buy.” He said without the increase, the quality of the schools would suffer.
Regent Jill Docking said, “It’s clear we are in a ditch,” economically, but added it would be the higher education institutions that would lead the recovery.
In the end, KU got what it wanted by a 7-2 vote with Shank and Sherrer opposed.
The plan will generate $9.8 million, which covers less than one third of the $31.5 million in budget cuts to KU, university officials said.
KU student body president Mason Heilman, a senior from Lawrence, said no student likes to see a tuition increase. But given the fiscal situation, he said, it seemed fair.
“KU is a terrific deal,” he said.
And he said the school’s commitment to continue the compact system helps students plan their finances. Under the compact, the tuition rate for incoming freshmen is fixed for four years.
Since the compact system started in fall 2007, more and more students are included and therefore don’t see annual increases. So, 40 percent of undergraduates will see no increase.
But there are still some students not included in the compact, generally seniors and transfer students.
The tuition increases for the other regents schools ranged from Kansas State University at 3.9 percent to 8.5 percent at Wichita State University for resident students.
Kansas higher education institutions would have faced even worse financial conditions without getting approximately $50 million in federal stimulus funds.
The regents voted 5-4 to distribute those funds to the schools with the direction that two-thirds be spent on deferred maintenance projects and one-third on either deferred maintenance or programs to help mitigate tuition costs. Docking described the federal stimulus funds as a “blessing.”