Kansas colleges seek tuition hikes even after funding boost

May 20, 2018 GMT

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State universities in Kansas are asking for permission to increase tuition again this fall even after legislators boosted their overall state funding to levels not seen for a decade.

The six state universities and the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City have submitted proposals to the state Board of Regents to increase tuition and required fees for undergraduate students from 1.2 percent to 3 percent. The regents are expected to vote on the proposals in June.

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The proposals came after legislators added $15 million to the state budget for the next fiscal year, which begins in July, to partially restore cuts made in university operating budgets in 2016. The total state funding for the universities, at nearly $588 million, is higher than it has been since the state’s 2009 budget year.

But the figure doesn’t match the final 2009 budget’s funding of $595 million, and the percentage of the universities’ budgets covered with state tax dollars has continued to decline, from nearly 29 percent in fiscal 2009 to 22 percent in fiscal 2019.

“Our state has really got to decide whether they value education or not,” said Regent Ann Brandau-Murguia of Kansas City.

The universities have come to rely more heavily on tuition dollars to finance their operations. The Board of Regents said they’re raising about $730 million from tuition under the current state budget to supplement their state dollars — 55 percent more than the $468 million from tuition in fiscal 2009.

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod told the regents at their most recent meeting that the institution faces “a rapid increase in our fixed costs.”

“Faculty raises are not part of this conversation and staff raises are not part of this conversation,” he said.

The University of Kansas is proposing a 3 percent increase in tuition and required fees for undergraduates from Kansas on its Lawrence campus, making it $5,574 per semester. It is also abandoning a “compact” program that allowed incoming freshman to pay one, frozen rate for four years.

“It’s always about balancing affordability and quality,” spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said. “We want a KU education to be affordable for our students and families, but we also need to provide the level of education that people are going to expect from a research university like KU.”

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Kansas State University noted that it is proposing the smallest tuition increase in three decades. The increase on its Manhattan campus for undergraduates from Kansas would be 1.2 percent. Undergraduate students on the Kansas State Polytechnic campus in Salina would see no increase.

But state Rep. Brandon Whipple, a Wichita Democrat, said the tuition increases still would hurt students and working families.

“This is terrible,” he tweeted.