The Kansas Board of Regents’ decision to freeze in-state tuition at state universities is a positive move that should generate a positive response from Kansas legislators.
The Regents view the one-year tuition freeze, approved Thursday, as their effort to address legislators’ concerns about tuition rates that are rising above what some Kansas families can afford to pay, especially in the current economy. In return, the Regents want legislators to hold cuts in higher education budgets to the 7 percent the schools have been planning on and to allocate $40 million in federal stimulus funds to pay for deferred maintenance projects and offset some of the loss of tuition funds.
It seems like a fair trade — even though the tuition freeze already has Kansas university officials scrambling.
They say the freeze will make it impossible for them to offer next fall’s freshmen “tuition compacts” that guarantee the same base tuition rate for four years at KU. Apparently, officials hadn’t formed a contingency plan for any interruption in their compact program.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to simply put a hold on the tuition compacts and charge next fall’s freshmen the same as last fall’s freshmen. It would mean less money for the university, but some of that loss would be offset by the stimulus funds. And significant funding for deferred maintenance projects is an attractive trade-off. Given the current economy, it’s questionable how large a tuition increase the Regents would have approved for next fall anyway.
After they have a chance to evaluate the situation, KU officials should be able to come up with a fair and workable plan that accommodates the tuition freeze.
By implementing the freeze and accepting a 7 percent budget reduction, the Board of Regents is making an effort to address the state’s economic challenges without adding to the financial burden of Kansas students and their families. In exchange, the Regents are asking the Legislature to release federal stimulus money to fund much-needed maintenance work without impacting the state budget.
As noted above, it seems like a fair trade.