The headline on the Kansas University news release reads: “KU works to make tuition affordable for all students.”
We realize that state budget cuts have been tough, but it seems that KU needs to work a little harder on that “affordable” tuition goal.
The tuition proposals released by KU this week include plans for a technology “fee” — not tuition increase, but a “fee” — of $10 per credit hour. The fee is scheduled to help modernize classroom technology, expand wireless Internet access and fund programs to improve student retention.
With the new $10-per-hour fee, incoming freshmen entering into the mandatory four-year “tuition compact” will pay $262.50 per credit hour, an increase of 7 percent over last year’s freshmen and a whopping 23 percent increase over freshmen who started at KU in 2007. Students already in a tuition compact won’t pay the new technology fee.
The principle of the tuition compacts is questionable because it essentially takes the estimated tuition for four years and splits it equally over the four years, thereby frontloading tuition for freshmen and sophomores who may or may not last the entire four years. However, given the current rate of tuition inflation at KU, students who can complete a degree in four years seem to be coming out ahead.
The standard tuition that will be paid by students who didn’t come to KU as freshmen will rise by 9.1 percent. Among these students will be those who attended a community college for the first year or two, probably as a way to reduce their tuition costs. According to the proposed rates, they will pay $238.90 per credit hour next fall. All of the proposed tuition increases must be approved by the Kansas Board of Regents.
KU officials say that students are telling them they are willing to pay more to preserve the quality of their university education, but you have to wonder exactly to whom the officials are talking. Are they talking to students who are going to school part time and working to try to make ends meet? Are they talking to parents who pay most of the tuition bills? A small representation of students on KU’s tuition advisory committee probably doesn’t accurately reflect a consensus of KU’s student body about tuition costs.
All six state universities are proposing tuition increases, but, as usual, KU’s is the largest. Kansas State University is proposing a 3 percent increase. It’s true that reductions in state funding have been hard on KU this year, but the economic conditions that prompted those cuts also affect the families who are trying to send their children to KU.
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said in the news release that KU’s tuition proposal “strikes a good balance” between maintaining accessibility to higher education and addressing the university’s budget challenges. That may be true, but it’s still tough news for Kansans who are trying to balance their budgets while paying tuition for a KU student.