Wichita University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod said this week that he is concerned about the rising cost of on-campus housing and meal plans, but he said students are still getting good value for the money.
His comments came as the Kansas Board of Regents heard the first reading of proposed housing and dining fee increases for all six state universities, including increases of just less than 3 percent next year for KU students. Final action is expected at the board's December meeting.
"I think there’s concern that education overall is getting unaffordable," Girod said. "I think you also have to remember that unlike renting a house where you have a 12-month lease, we don’t do that. We don’t hold people to that. We also let them get out of it if they’re going abroad, they don’t have to pay for a house they’re not living in, for example."
"We also bundle the internet, the cable and the laundry now," he added. "So we’re trying to do one price without all the add-ons on top of that, and trying to do that in bulk so we can keep costs down."
According to information presented to the Regents, KU's on-campus housing program is expected to operate at a loss both this year and next as the program spends down cash balances on capital improvements.
For the current fiscal year, the KU housing program will take in $33.8 million in revenue and incur $22.3 million in regular operating expenses. But after paying out $5.3 million for capital improvements, plus $9.5 million in debt service payments, it will wind up with a $3.3 million loss for the year — money that will come from the program's cash reserves.
For the 2018-2019 academic year, the program will spend just less than $2 million, but its debt service payments will climb to $14 million, leaving the program with a $2.7 million net loss for the year. That will draw cash reserves down to less than $1 million, according to documents filed with the Board of Regents.
To make all that work, KU is seeking increases of about 2.8 percent for rooms in the renovated residence halls and 3 percent in the newer buildings, Oswald-Self and Downs. Officials also are seeking rent hikes of 2.7 percent at the Sunflower Duplex Apartments and Jayhawker Towers, except in the newly renovated towers, where rates would go up 2.9 percent.
Under those rates for the 2018-19 school year, the lowest-cost housing plan would be a four-person apartment at Jayhawker Towers, at $3,868 per resident. The next lowest option would be a traditional two-person dorm room in one of the renovated residence halls for $4,742.
At the other end of the spectrum, a room in a four-person, four-bedroom suite in Downs Hall would climb to $10,170. Also on the high end would be a two-person, two-bedroom suite in either Downs or Oswald-Self for $9,804.
KU is also seeking a 2.8 percent increase for most of its residential dining plans.