The comparison may not be exact, but the contrasts between the way tuition matters were handled this year at Kansas University and Oklahoma University are worth noting.
On Thursday, the Kansas Board of Regents approved KU’s request to raise its overall tuition rate by 6 percent and its four-year guaranteed tuition rate for new freshmen by 7 percent. On Wednesday, the OU regents approved a budget for the university that included no — that’s zero — increase in tuition and fees.
OU President David Boren had promised in January that he would not seek tuition increases this year because of the slow economy and the effect it was having on students and their families. Boren then showed his commitment to keeping higher education affordable by raising an additional $10 million for student scholarships this year.
KU and regents officials at least appear to be less concerned about those paying the tuition bill. One of their favorite rationales was repeated again Thursday by the student body president, who said, “KU is a terrific deal” in spite of the increased tuition.
Maybe so, but if it is, OU is an even better deal. In-state undergraduates at OU will pay $6,493 in tuition and fees for two semesters and 30 credit hours next year. In-state undergraduates at KU will pay $7,414; and freshmen on the tuition “compact” plan will pay $8,206.
OU officials seemed happy in an AP story published in Friday’s Journal-World, with the funding the state’s higher education system received from the Oklahoma Legislature. Kansas officials, for good reason, can’t say the same, but it would be interesting to know how Kansas legislators would have reacted if KU and regents had made a commitment, like Boren did, at the beginning of the session not to raise tuition. For some reason, higher education officials in Kansas don’t seem to have a very good relationship with a large portion of the Legislature. Perhaps Boren could offer them some tips.
The other interesting piece of OU funding was the extra $3 million in funding for academic programs that was supplied by the OU athletics department, bringing its total contribution to academics to more than $7 million a year. About $1 million of the new money will come from increased football ticket prices and the rest will result from efforts within the athletics department to hold down travel costs and other expenses within the department.
Wow. How would that strategy go over with the KU athletics department, which has just created its 12th associate athletics director position? What portion of this fall’s higher KU football ticket prices will go to academics?
As noted at the outset, a comparison of OU and KU funding isn’t exact; the two schools face many different challenges and different funding situations. However, there seems to be little question that President Boren’s commitment to keeping higher education affordable in Oklahoma is something Kansas officials should note and try to emulate.