KU submits request to raise tuition, fees by 5%, on average, next school year; increase would be higher than most in the state

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Strong Hall is pictured on Nov. 27, 2023, at the University of Kansas.

Many students at the University of Kansas likely will see a 5% increase for tuition and fees next school year, as the Kansas Board of Regents received additional details about cost proposals Wednesday.

As reported earlier, KU presented a request for a 3.5% increase in tuition rates for the 2024-2025 school year, which placed KU in the middle of the pack in terms of what other state universities were seeking.

Regents at their monthly meeting on Wednesday, though, received complete proposals from the universities that included both changes to tuition and required fees for the next school year. With the new fees added to the equation, KU’s estimated increase for the next school year rose to 5%, putting it near the top of the list of increases for the six public universities governed by the Regents.

Regents took no action on the tuition and fee proposals for KU or any of the other universities. The board received presentations on the proposals and is expected to take final action on the tuition and fee requests at its June meeting.

KU leaders said the increase is needed even though enrollment at the university reached a 13-year high in the most recent school year. KU, though, is still dealing with the effects of a “structural budget deficit” where KU had expenses that routinely exceeded revenues. Over the past several years, KU has addressed the deficit through a combination of budget cuts and by spending down its cash reserves by about $20 million.

“We really don’t like to have to raise tuition, but there are a lot of challenges we have to deal with,” Jeff DeWitt, KU’s chief financial officer, told Regents on Wednesday.

DeWitt said KU’s work on the financial front, though, is paying off. He said KU’s budget should be balanced in fiscal year 2025, which begins in July, meaning that KU won’t have to draw down cash reserves in future years. But he said KU’s tuition and fee proposal is important to keeping those efforts on track.

Inflation is the other major factor that KU is combating.

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod noted that the Kansas Legislature did provide additional funding for higher education in this year’s state budget, but he also said that much of the new funding was for one-time projects, such as KU’s Cancer Center project at the KU Medical Center campus in Kansas City or the joint KU/Wichita State medical campus in downtown Wichita.

“While we are extremely appreciative of all of that, it doesn’t help pay the bills on a day-in, day-out basis” Girod said.

The 5% increase in tuition and fees, though, does widen the cost gap between KU and its next two largest competitors in the state — Kansas State and Wichita State. Both universities came in with smaller increases than KU. Once the proposals become final, tuition and fees for a full-time undergraduate student at KU will be about $530 a semester higher than for the same student at KSU. Compared to Wichita State, KU tuition and fees are about $1,300 higher per semester.

DeWitt, though, said KU still feels good about its competitive position. While KU does compete for in-state students with KSU and Wichita State, it doesn’t often use those two schools for benchmarks in setting tuition and fee rates. Instead, KU looks at other research universities that, like KU, are part of the Association of American Universities.

KU shared data with the Regents that shows KU would preliminarily rank sixth out of 11 AAU peer schools in terms of annual tuition and fees. For comparison, KU’s resident, undergraduate rates were about $150 more expensive than those at Indiana University and about $1,300 cheaper than those at the University of Colorado, the two schools closest to KU in cost.

DeWitt also said KU has an important metric that suggests KU’s tuition and fees are remaining competitive. KU’s freshman class in the 2023-2024 school year was the largest on record, and Girod has said that KU is on track to have its largest overall enrollment in history during the next school year.

Here’s a look at KU’s proposed tuition and fee rates, and how they compare with the proposals from the other Regents universities. All numbers are for a resident, undergraduate, full-time student.

• KU: $6,141 per semester, up 5.0% from a year ago;

• Kansas State: $5,610 per semester, up 2.5%;

• Wichita State: $4,841 per semester, up 3.9%

• Pittsburg State: $4,200 per semester, up 3.0%

• Emporia State: $3,658 per semester, down 0.4%

• Fort Hays State: $2,961 per semester, up 5.1%

KU also is proposing several changes to fees that won’t impact all students, but will impact several of the more popular majors at the universities. Those include:

• A new $10 per credit hour fee for all courses in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. The fee is expected to generate about $3.5 million, and would be used to hire more lecturers to teach popular first-year classes. KU said the hope is the new lecturers will reduce class sizes and give students a greater chance of success in those key classes.

• Journalism fees would increase to $35 per credit hour, up from $25. The increase would be the first since fiscal year 2018.

• Law school fees would increase by $50 per credit hour. The fee would apply only to new students. It would be the first increase since fiscal year 2019.

In other business, the Regents:

• Unanimously approved a new contract between KU and the labor union that represents graduate teaching assistants at the university. The two sides reached an impasse in negotiations, and KU asked the Regents to invoke a state law that allows a new contract to be imposed on the union. The new contract provides for a 2.5% pay increase for GTAs. The union had been seeking an increase of 10% or more.

Editor’s Note: This article was corrected to accurately state the size of the fee increase for the journalism school.