Editorial: KU taps brakes on rising tuition

A more promising fiscal model appears to be taking shape at KU and should benefit Kansas families.

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod is demonstrating a penchant for fiscal conservatism that ultimately should benefit the university’s most important constituency: Kansas families.

Last week the Kansas Board of Regents approved a package of tuition and fee increases for the six state universities. For full-time resident undergraduate students attending KU in Lawrence, the total tuition and fee increase amounts to 3 percent or $162.45 per semester. The total cost of tuition plus fees will increase this year to $5,573.95 per semester.

It should be noted that KU’s increase is the largest of the Regents universities, which will impose tuition and fee increases ranging from 1.2 percent at Kansas State University to 2.8 percent at Pittsburg State University.

Still, KU’s increase pales in comparison with the increases the university has implemented in the recent past. In fact, this year’s increase is the smallest at KU in a decade.

The Regents said that tuition and fee increases continue to be necessary to offset rising costs and decreases in state funding, which has decreased nearly $73 million in the past 10 years.

KU’s tuition increase is 2.8 percent. Student fees increased 5.2 percent, driven largely by requests from student organizations, Girod said.

The KU tuition increase, expected to generate $5.9 million in new revenue, would likely be higher had KU not announced it will cut spending 6 percent across the board for the coming school year. A 6 percent cut totals $20 million.

The announcement of the 6 percent budget cuts came on the heels of Girod’s decision to fire Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger for failing to make adequate progress on athletic department initiatives. That decision also appeared to be financially driven. Kansas Athletics has seen its financial fortunes wane with increasing expenses, revenue declines driven by its football team’s lackluster performance and difficulty raising funds for $350 million in athletic facility improvements, including the renovation of Memorial Stadium.

KU has spent much of the past decade undergoing significant expansion throughout its campus, fueled in large part by the record-setting $1.66 billion raised in its Far Above campaign.

But while KU was building at a rapid pace and raising funds like never before, tuition also was increasing rapidly. KU imposed back-to-back tuition increases of 6 percent in 2009 and 2010, followed by a 9.2 percent increase in 2011. Since then, increases have been 5 percent to 6 percent.

Let’s hope that this year’s more modest tuition increases, coupled with tightening of the university’s spending, are indicative of the fiscal model taking shape at KU. First and foremost, KU’s role is to provide Kansas students and their families with access to the highest quality post-secondary education possible. Affordability is critical to that access and every step Girod takes to maintain affordability should be saluted.


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