This week’s Kansas Board of Regents meeting likely will be a challenging one for Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.
Just over a year ago, Gray-Little was hired and welcomed by the regents as KU’s new chancellor. Today, the board will go into executive session to review her performance during her first year at KU.
On Thursday, the regents will talk about proposed tuition increases for KU, whose combined tuition and fee increase for students not paying the compact tuition rate is the largest among the state universities. In past years, regents have expressed concern about rising tuition rates; it will be interesting to see how they react to KU’s proposed 8.2 percent increase in tuition and fees for non-compact Kansas residents.
KU continues to tout its tuition compact that allows incoming freshmen to lock in a four-year tuition rate that is guaranteed not to increase. To keep pace with rising costs, however, incoming freshmen this fall would pay tuition and fees 6.4 percent above what freshmen paid last fall. KU also is seeking approval for a 6 percent increase for all existing course fees for fiscal year 2014 and the addition of a $10-per-credit-hour technology fee for everyone not already locked in to a tuition compact.
KU is seeking approval to charge tuition and fees of $4,366 per semester for resident freshman starting new compacts and $4,012 for residents not on compacts. That’s about 9 percent above the next highest tuition rate, at Kansas State University and more than double the tuition and fees charged by the least expensive state university, Fort Hays State.
KU’s tuition requests may raise some eyebrows, but the report regents may be even more focused on is Thursday’s “update” from Gray-Little regarding the KU athletics department. The regents are bound to have many questions about the resignation of Athletics Director Lew Perkins and how KU plans to deal with the fallout from recent revelations about millions of dollars worth of basketball and football tickets being skimmed and used or sold by ticket office employees.
When the ticket scandal broke, several board members were outspoken about the need for KU to restore the public’s confidence not only in the athletic department but also in the university’s ability to handle the mess. Even with a packed agenda, the regents are likely to take a little extra time on the athletics item.
That’s as it should be. It’s the regents’ job not just to rubber-stamp the actions of university leaders whether it’s cleaning up a ticket scandal or setting tuition rates. It’s a challenging time for KU, and it’s only right that the regents should want to make sure the state’s flagship university is headed in the right direction.