Board of Regents rejects KU proposal to hike student fees for higher wages, sexuality and gender diversity, mental health care

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World File Photo

Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus is shown on Sept. 13, 2018.

If University of Kansas students want to see higher wages for student employees on campus, they’ll need to fund the program without raising student fees, the Kansas Board of Regents decided on Wednesday.

The same goes for creating new programming for sexuality and gender diversity, improving mental health care on campus, and several other programs.

A divided Board of Regents rejected a KU proposal that would have increased required student fees by 6% — or about $31 per semester — even though student government leaders at KU were seeking the increases.

Several board members said it made no sense to increase student fees at a time when the chancellor and other university leaders had been told to do everything possible to hold KU’s tuition steady.

But the board was heavily divided on the issue, with some board members arguing that denial of the fee increases at this late stage would send a message to student governance that their deliberations and process don’t matter.

“They go through a huge process about how to spend these dollars,” Regent Shane Bangerter said. “They are accountable. They are voted into office. They get in the weeds on this. For us to second-guess them without them being here, I think this is very inappropriate.”

More board members, though, sided with the argument that to increase the fees would send a message that the board wasn’t serious about its commitment to hold down the cost of higher education.

“I don’t see this as disrespecting their process,” Regent Mark Hutton said. “I think it is respecting our obligations.”

After the meeting, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said about half of the money that would have been raised from the new student fees would have funded higher wages for student workers. Girod said students had made a solid case for increasing some wages. He said many student workers currently earned wages in the range of $8 to $10 per hour.

“And they pointed out that certain students, especially international students, really have a hard time working anywhere else other than campus,” Girod said.

According to the proposal, the increased fees would have supported wages for student workers in the student union, the recreation center, and Hilltop Child Development Center. Other fees would have helped cover growing expenses at the Watkins Health Center, and still others would have supported new programming on gender equity at the Emily Taylor Center, a new employee for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center, and additional funding for the KU Info program that answers a variety of questions from the university community. A $2.05 fee increase for Counseling and Psychological Services would have allowed the organization to have more resources to provide mental health care, which the proposal said was in higher demand on campus as a result of the pandemic.

A new fee of $2.90 per semester would have supported a Sexuality and Gender Diversity program that would strive “to build an inclusive campus community by providing social justice-based education, resources, programming, events, training and support for queer and trans students, staff and faculty,” among others.

With the rejection, KU’s mandatory student fees on the Lawrence campus will remain at $491.95 per semester.

KU wasn’t the only university to have its student fee proposals rejected. Wichita State and Pittsburg State also had fee increases rejected by the board.

Board members did routinely approve the tuition proposals of all six Regents universities. KU, for the third year in a row, held undergraduate tuition rates steady. For the second year in a row it also held graduate tuition rates steady.

Kansas State University was the only school to propose a tuition increase, amounting to about a 1.2% increase for undergraduate students. Board members approved that increase because K-State also proposed reducing several student fees that made the total cost to attend KSU in the upcoming school year essentially the same as it was last year.


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