Topeka Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Friday praised a plan by the Kansas Board of Regents to freeze tuition rates next year.
“I was incredibly pleased that the Board of Regents took this situation very seriously,” Sebelius said. “And I think they share my concern that in this difficult budget time we don’t want to make it more difficult for Kansas kids to access higher education.”
On Thursday, the regents approved a plan to freeze state university tuition costs for Kansas residents for the 2009-10 academic year, provided that the Legislature not reduce the higher education budget by more than 7 percent, and that the state access federal stimulus funds.
Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said the regents were caught between having to implement budget cuts while also responding to criticism over recent hefty tuition increases. “It’s a balancing act,” he said.
The $49.6 million in stimulus funds would be used for deferred maintenance projects at the schools and keeping tuition costs down.
The 7 percent reduction — proposed because of the state’s shaky tax revenue situation — “will not be easy or painless,” said Regent Chair Donna Shank. But, she added, “we understand that every state governmental entity must share in the pain so we are prepared to do our part.”
Some legislators have suggested that the regent’s proposal represented an ultimatum to the Legislature to back off cuts of more than 7 percent.
The tuition freeze proposal, however, could endanger Kansas University’s new four-year guaranteed tuition plan. The plan depends on increasing tuition for each new batch of incoming freshmen and then fixing that rate for four years.