Incoming Kansas University freshmen and their families crowded the hallways of the Kansas Union on Wednesday, clutching blue folders, meeting with advisers and pondering degree requirements.
And some of them had one other thing on their minds: How much the next four years (or more) are going to cost.
Their orientation session, one of more than 15 taking place for first-time freshmen throughout the summer at KU, took place about one week after the Kansas Board of Regents approved a 4.4 percent increase in their tuition and fees, and less than a week before interest rates on subsidized federal student loans threaten to double.
Most returning KU undergraduates won’t see their price go up, because KU’s Four-Year Tuition Compact keeps their tuition stable. But first-time freshmen will feel the increase.
And while none of the students or parents who spoke with the Journal-World on Wednesday were enthusiastic about the increase, most shared a similar reaction: What can you do?
“Everybody’s raising rates,” said Denis Niehues of Maple Hill, there for his daughter Stacie’s orientation. “I mean, it’s just part of life.”
That’s certainly the case among state universities in Kansas, at least. KU’s increase will make Stacie’s class of KU freshmen the first to pay more than $5,000 in in-state tuition and fees for a typical semester, but it was a lower percentage increase than those approved for Wichita State, Pittsburg State, Kansas State or Emporia State universities. And it’s the smallest increase by percentage for students at KU’s Lawrence campus in more than 10 years.
“He’s got to go to school,” said Mary Gonzales of Shawnee of her son, Richard. “You gotta do what you gotta do.”
Brenda and Jeff Schneider of Mulvane said they were in no hurry to make it to all of their orientation sessions Wednesday, as they’ve been through this before: They’re sending their third child to KU this fall.
And to them, they said, KU is still a good deal even though tuition has increased since their oldest son came to campus in 2007. It’s worth it for their kids to go to a school with KU’s reputation and real college-life experience, even if they have to take out a few loans, they said.
“We didn’t like it, of course,” Jeff said of the tuition spike, “but it’s not going to change our minds.”
But George and Carrine Lovelace of Prairie Village, as they finished lunch at the Union, said they worried that the choice to go to KU — or to any four-year college —may soon no longer be an easy one for many students, if prices continue to rise.
And, George said, the rising costs mean they’re pushing their daughter, Vanessa, to go into a professional program with a clear pathway to a career. He’d heard an adviser talk about liberal arts degrees earlier in the day, he said, but he worried that such a program wouldn’t allow Vanessa to recoup her investment.
“When you pick a degree, you can’t really think about something I like,” George said. “You have to think about what this pays me.”
Vanessa said she’s thinking about majoring in pre-pharmacy.
Other students said Wednesday that as they mapped out their fall-semester schedules and worried about getting ready to leave for school, the cost of their tuition wasn’t at the front of their minds — at least not yet.
“I’m not really worried about it right now,” said Richard Gonzales, who’s planning to study graphic design at KU. “But later I will be.”