KU proposing housing, dining rate increases of nearly 5% as inflation and labor costs surge
photo by: John English, Special to the Journal-World
Get ready to see new signs of inflation at KU and most other public universities in the state.
The University of Kansas and every other Regents school in the state are planning to make significant increases to their housing and dining rates for the upcoming school year.
In one popular category, KU is asking for the largest percentage increase of any of the six Regents universities, and KU generally will continue to rank as the second most expensive option in most categories among public universities in the state.
The Kansas Board of Regents at its meeting on Wednesday is being asked to give preliminary approval to a host of housing and dining rate increases at KU, K-State, Emporia State, Fort Hays State, Pittsburg State and Wichita State universities.
KU is asking for a 4.8% increase in one of its more popular housing and dining plans — a double occupancy room with a limited dining plan. The 4.8% increase would add $473 per year to a student’s bill, and would bring the total to $10,403 for the academic year. The 4.8% increase is the largest increase asked for by a state university, but not by much. The $10,403 total cost is the second highest among Regents universities.
Here’s a look at other proposed rate increases and total costs for other Regents schools for a similar room and dining plan: ESU, 4.4% increase to $9,902; FHSU, 3.5% increase to $8,772; KSU, 3.9% increase to $9,850; PSU, 3.4% increase to $8,456; WSU, 2.1% to $11,500.
Regents staff also compiled information on prices for a more upscale housing and dining plan at each school. Those plans generally include a room in a new or recently renovated dormitory and an all-you-care-to-eat dining plan. KU is asking for the second-highest rate increase in that category, and would continue to have the second-highest total cost among Regents schools, trailing Kansas State.
Here’s a look: KU, 4.0% increase to $13,956; ESU, 3.5% increase to $10,542; FHSU, 3.5% increase to $9,110; KSU, 5.0% increase to $14,590; PSU, 3.0% increase to $9,710; WSU, 3.0% increase to $13,190.
In their written proposal to the Regents, KU leaders said the increases are necessary to deal with rising expenses related to inflation and also to give KU the resources to tackle critical deferred maintenance needs in dormitories, including new heating and cooling systems, new roofs and improvements to elevators. KU also said it plans to use some of the money generated from increased dining plan rates to address staff shortages, although the plan did not provide any specifics about what type of general wage increases it plans for employees.
“Operating expenses have been heavily affected by inflation and the cost of labor,” KU leaders said in the dining portion of its report.
The rate increases — which vary anywhere from 2% to 9% depending on the specific room and dining plan chosen — are expected to generate $1.4 million in additional revenue for the housing division and an additional $850,000 for KU Dining.
The report to the Regents also included some specific budget information for KU student housing operations. The division is budgeted next year to operate at a slight loss. The division expects to have an overall loss of about $240,000. The division is estimated to have about $7.1 million in reserve and cash balances, allowing it to absorb the the loss for the 2024 fiscal year. The division is estimated to have an even larger loss this current fiscal year. The report shows KU student housing is expected to post a $1.3 million loss in fiscal 2023, which ends in June.
Debt payments are expected to cause the loss in both instances. KU is covering its operating expenses to run student housing, but is falling short of covering all of its debt payments, as those payments have been growing the past several years. In fiscal year 2024, which begins in July, KU student housing is expected to have $14.9 million in debt payments, up from $14.3 million in fiscal year 2021.
KU by far is posting the largest losses of any student housing division among Regents schools, according to the latest report. Only KU and Emporia State are budgeting to have a loss in fiscal year 2024. KU’s estimated loss in the current fiscal year is more than twice as large as the next highest, which is Emporia State with a little more than $500,000 lost. Kansas State and Wichita State also are both projecting small losses of less than $80,000 for fiscal year 2023.
KU, however, is performing better in one key area than most Regents schools. KU projects to have 95.5% of all student housing units occupied in the next school year. That’s near the top of the list — WSU is projecting 96% occupancy — and much better than several other Regents schools. Kansas State is projecting occupancy of just 80.7%, while Pittsburg State and Emporia State are projecting 80% and 81%, respectively.
In other business, Regents at their Wednesday meeting also will consider approving a new policy that will require state universities to receive additional approvals from leadership at the Regents before beginning any discussions about changing athletic conferences.