By Tim Carpenter – Kansas Reflector
TOPEKA — Five of six universities in the Kansas Board of Regents system Wednesday recommended no tuition increase for undergraduate students in the upcoming academic year, while Kansas State University outlined a new tuition and fee structure resulting in a 1.2% cost spike for students not enrolled in an online class.
The nine-member higher education governance board took each university proposal under advisement in anticipation of making final decisions in June.
Officials at the University of Kansas, Wichita State University, Pittsburg State University, Emporia State University and Fort Hays State University sought permission to hold the line on undergraduate tuition in 2021-2022.
“It’s a big deal for us to come before you, and it’s important for us to do it, to say zero tuition,” said Steve Scott, president of Pittsburg State. “It’s easy to say the number zero. It’s not easy to make that work. There is inflation in higher education. Each of us have increased costs next year that have to be covered some way.”
In early 2020, COVID-19 undermined in-person instruction and created financial and academic challenges on these public university campuses. Availability of coronavirus vaccines created optimism the universities could return to something approximating normal this fall semester.
A significant consequence of the pandemic, university officials said, was that universities could expect students to enroll in more online courses in the future.
Jeff DeWitt, chief financial officer at KU, said the decision to avoid a tuition increase for another year would keep the tuition assessment on full-time resident undergraduate students at $5,046 per semester. That’s the same rate paid in 2020 and 2021. Individuals enrolled at the KU Medical Center campus in Kansas City, Kansas would avoid a tuition or fee increase for the second year.
“It is flat on tuition on all campuses,” DeWitt said.
Richard Myers, president of Kansas State, said a proposed overhaul of the university’s tuition and fee structure could increase the cost paid by a typical student by 1.2%. He also said KSU students taking at least one online course in addition to face-to-face classes could end up paying less overall because online fees would be reduced. Approximately half of Kansas State students took an online class in 2020 prior to the pandemic.
He said the university’s plan was designed to be revenue neutral.
“We’re not trying to make up any money here,” Myers said. “We’re trying for a lot more transparency so people know what they’re paying for.”
He said the university would likely propose next year a system of differential tuition rates based on academic college.
The pending reform at Kansas State is designed to add simplicity to what has been described by students as a confusing process of determining how much a KSU degree costs, said Karen Goos, vice president for enrollment management.
Kansas State’s reform strategy, which includes elimination of a portion of university fees, means a resident undergraduate student taking 30 credit hours during the year could expect to pay $4,744 per semester in tuition, an uptick of 1.2% if not taking part in an online class. The same percentage increase would apply to nonresident undergraduate students at Kansas State.
“The average student will see a reduction in overall cost when taking at least one online course,” Goos said. “We really think, particularly as we’ve seen a decline in our enrollment with in-state students, this is going to be really impactful for our in-state market.”
Michael Dowd, student body president at Kansas State, said he appreciated the university’s attempt to create a tuition and fee system more responsive to student needs.
“It allows for more flexibility for students to choose what they would like to take and what works for them,” he said.
Emporia State proposed the Board of Regents allow tuition rates to remain flat for resident undergraduate and graduate students, as long as those students were enrolled in 12 credit hours and took one credit hour of classes on campus.
In addition, ESU suggested a substantial reduction of on-campus nonresident tuition rates for undergraduate and graduate students. Out-of-state undergraduate rates would drop 32% and the comparable rate for graduate students would decline by 19%.
Angela Wolgram, budget director at Emporia State, said tuition charged nonresident students would be based on a 2.5% multiplier of the resident rate rather than the current 3.7% multiplier. A scholarship program that subsidized nonresident tuition rates would be discontinued.