As the U.S. Department of Education unveiled a list of public institutions with the highest net prices, Kansas University officials were surprised to find themselves in 17th place.
As it turns out, they’re really not that high on the list, university officials said. The university made an error when it reported its financial aid data to a national database, said KU spokesman Jack Martin. That error artificially inflated the net cost, he said, as the university hasn’t been reporting all the sources of financial aid that the national database asked for.
In reality, the net cost to attend KU is $13,940, he said, or about $3,300 less than the $17,254 listed on the Department of Education’s website.
And that would place it safely off the department’s list of public institutions with the highest net price, but still about 23 percent above the $10,747 national average.
“We’re obviously disappointed that an error like this will result in some students and families not getting the real picture of KU’s affordability,” said KU Provost Jeff Vitter, in a written statement. “KU continues to be one of the most affordable national research universities to attend, and we again this year increased the amount of scholarships and aid available to our students.”
The Department of Education released its College Affordability and Transparency lists on Thursday to fulfill a reporting requirement passed into law in 2008. The online lists track tuition costs among the top and bottom 5 percent of four-year and two-year schools. The measures include public, private and for-profit colleges and universities.
Separate lists show the most- and least-affordable schools when scholarships and other financial factors are considered. The education department said those “sticker prices” better reflect out-of-pocket attendance costs. Two other lists track the rate of tuition increases as well as the rate of increase in the average net price.
The Department of Education calculated the average net price by subtracting the average amount of federal, state/local government or institutional grant or scholarship aid from the total cost of attendance, according to its website.
The total cost of attendance is the sum of published tuition and required fees, books and supplies and a weighted average for room and board and other expenses.
KU’s reporting error stretches back into previous years, too, though Martin said he didn’t know exactly how long the data had been misrepresented.
No one at the university discovered the error until KU received the list of universities with high net costs this week, he said.
“It’s been a systemic underreporting of the data,” he said.
So will the Department of Education fix KU’s information?
“We’re asking them to,” Martin said. “And we’ll see what they have to say. We’re hopeful that they will make the adjustment.”