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Final Kansas budget locks in public university tuition freeze, fee hikes still on table

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Kelly: $37.5 million budget hike sufficient to hold line on student tuition

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LAWRENCE — Kansas public university students uneasy about the cost of their education dodged a tuition hike this fall, but won’t know until mid-June whether they’ll be dinged with higher campus fees.

Maneuvering by the Legislature and governor on tuition added complexity to the task of pulling together university budgets for the fiscal year starting July 1. The Kansas Board of Regents are preparing to vote on what campus fees get elevated at the system’s six universities.

The $37.5 million allocated by the Legislature to universities governed by the Board of Regents, and Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of a budget provision that would have allowed tuition increases, mean students wouldn’t pay more in tuition during the 2022-2023 school year. It would be the fourth consecutive year without a tuition rate adjustment at the University of Kansas following the 2.8% boost in 2019. The five other universities in the system have each adopted tuition increases twice in the past five years.

Cheryl Harrison-Lee, chairwoman of the Board of Regents, said affordability of higher education was a center piece on the system’s priority list. Status quo tuition rates and more need-based student financial aid will combine to improve student access to education, she said.

In January, Kelly and the Board of Regents requested a $45.7 million increase from the Legislature. The justification was a desire to restore funding cut in the past, acknowledge a projected inflation rate of 1.9% and initiate a 2% budget increase to put off higher tuition rates.

The budget adopted by the House and Senate was $8 million less than sought by the Board of Regents. To cover the gap, university administrators in Lawrence, Manhattan, Wichita, Emporia, Pittsburg and Hays drafted proposals for tuition increases ranging from 1.07% at KU to 3.07% at Fort Hays State University, which has the system’s lowest tuition. Officials at the other state universities in Kansas set their sights on tuition increases of 1% to 1.3%.

Those plans were withdrawn after Kelly line-item vetoed the budget proviso opening the door to higher tuition. Kelly said higher education in Kansas was on solid footing because the universities could expect to receive $1 billion in the new fiscal year.

“I believe that the regents institutions will be able to continue to hold tuition flat, making college more affordable for Kansans of all backgrounds. This is especially important if we, as a state, are going to provide the workforce needed to fully actualize the benefits and opportunities of our recent economic growth,” Kelly said.

KU chancellor Doug Girod said the governor’s rejection of the tuition-increase option left university officials no choice but to embrace a tuition freeze, but wouldn’t necessarily block changes to campus or academic fees.

He said Board of Regents universities were grateful for nearly securing their full budget request to the 2022 Legislature.

“It played out as well as we could have hoped,” Girod said. “We certainly are most grateful to the governor and the Legislature for the support they have passed our way.”

Ken Hush, interim president at Emporia State University, said the university had concluded after the legislative session ended that a 3% tuition increase would have been appropriate. That idea was trimmed to 1% before abandoned in response to the veto. A 1% increase in ESU tuition would equate to $221,000 in new revenue.

“We felt it was a good investment,” Hush said. “We embrace what’s happened.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttps://sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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