AP NEWS

Kansas regents irked by university requests for more tuition

May 16, 2019

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Four of Kansas’ six major public universities are seeking undergraduate tuition increases, despite a recent increase in state funding for higher education approved by the Legislature.

The proposed increases were unveiled Wednesday at a Kansas Board of Regents meeting, which frustrated some regents, who are under pressure to keep tuition flat after lawmakers approved a funding boost of $33 million for higher education next year, The Wichita Eagle reported. The board will vote on the proposals in June.

“Right now I’m not thrilled about the prospects of trying to convince the Legislature next year to give us more money when I believe they are going to feel like they were ambushed,” Regent Mark Hutton told university leaders.

Gov. Laura Kelly last week urged the board to hold the line on tuition.

“We have got to do something about rising tuition costs. We are pricing kids, families out of our higher education system. So if it’s at all possible, I would like them to address that,” Kelly said.

The University of Kansas and Wichita State University both sought a 1 percent tuition increase for Kansas residents. Emporia State University seeks a 2.5 percent increase and Kansas State requested a 3.1 percent. Pittsburg State University and Fort Hays State University did not request tuition increases.

Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod said the 1 percent increase was the smallest the university had sought since at least 1983 and Wichita State Interim President Andy Tompkins said that school’s request was the smallest in 30 years.

The requests come as the cost of attending a public university in Kansas continues to rise and tuition becomes a larger funding source than state aid. A credit load of 15 hours at the University of Kansas or Wichita State University now costs about 50 percent more than in 2009. Under the proposed rates, Kansas university students will pay a total of $732 million in tuition next year, while the state will provide $626 million in funding.

University leaders said the institutions are still trying to rebound from reductions in past years. Girod said his university reduced its budget by $20 million this year.

“We’re all pretty good at belt-tightening. We’re kind of running out of belt at this point,” he said.

Kansas State President Richard Myers said his university reduced its operating budget by $37 million over the past five years and expects another $10 million cut in the future, all while enrollment declines.

Regents chairman Dennis Mullin urged regents and university leaders to meet with lawmakers during the next month to explain the need for the increases.

“If you have an increase in your budget and you can’t share and mobilize that message to our key legislators over the next 30 days, I will be shocked if you will get that past this board,” Mullin told university leaders.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com