7-percent tuition increase approved

By Bryan Richardson

TOPEKA — Kansas State tuition is again on the rise following the Kansas Board of Regents’ decision to approve hikes Wednesday.

Tuition is increasing seven percent at the Manhattan, Salina and Olathe campuses and three percent at the veterinary medicine college.

That means an undergraduate resident taking 15 credit hours during the 2013-14 academic year will pay $4,292.70 per semester, an increase of $269.40.

In approving the increases Wednesday, many of the Regents placed blame at the feet of legislators who approved higher education cuts. “I hate to do it, but the legislature is forcing us to do this,” said Regent Dan Lykins of Topeka.

The fiscal year 2014 budget includes a 1.5 percent across-the-board cut to institutions and a salary expense reduction based on a March 15 salary snapshot.

According to the Board of Regents, K-State needed a four percent tuition increase to offset the approximately $6.28 million state funding cut. Kansas State officials had estimated the cut to be approximately $6.6 million.

The tuition increase is expected to raise an additional $11.7 million. Around $2.9 million will be used to offset state general fund cuts. An additional $3.1 million to offset state funds will come from reallocation including $750,000 from accelerating the phase-out of state funds to athletics.

Beyond the state funding cut offset, approximately $4.6 million of the $11.7 million tuition increase is being used for the first year of the three-year plan to increase faculty salaries. The rest of the tuition increase will be used for utilities infrastructure ($1.025 million), financial aid ($1 million) and other needs.

Regent Kenny Wilk of Lansing cited the harm state cuts have done to goals the board set in Foresight 2020, an initiative of strategic goals for the next six years. One of those goals is to have 60 percent of Kansas adults with a certificate, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree, an increase from a little less than 50 percent today.

“That has compounded the task we have before us,” Wilk said of the cuts.

The increases imposed Wednesday aren’t actually that much different from what the university proposed prior to the legislative action. Kansas State administrators originally developed a proposal to increase tuition by six percent. The difference is in the way the money from the increase would have been used.

Kansas State President Kirk Schulz said the increase would have been used to provide money for a new business school building.

“We’ve got some initiatives on campus we’ll be postponing for some time,” he said. Schulz said this included improvements in hiring practices, graduate student stipends and international-related improvements.

Regents said tuition increases driven by a lack of state funding hurts universities.

Regent Robba Moran of Manhattan said Kansas “doesn’t operate in a vacuum,” but has many competitors from outside states. “Students have choices,” she said. “Every time we have to raise tuition, it works against us.”

Regent Christine Downey-Schmidt of Inman said it’s important for affected families and students to speak up to legislators.

“Until the people who put policymakers and decision makers in office start to push back against the kind of changes occurring in their lives — not for the better — I don’t think things are going to change,” she said.

The Regents invited legislative leaders to spend time at higher education institutions — one day at each university, a day at a technical college, and a day at a community college. It is a part of the push higher education officials are seeking to improve communication with legislators.

Schulz said a lot of newly elected legislators aren’t familiar with higher education funding.

Now that the session is over, he said this is time to speak with legislators at football games and other events in order to address some of the questions they might have about increasing pay of those they consider highly paid already, and also to discuss whether the university is operating efficiently.

“Now we can impress them in a different way than during the legislative session when we might have 10 or 20 minutes,” Schulz said.

The Regents also approved K-State’s request to consolidate the Kramer dining center project with the new residence hall and renovations to Marlatt and Goodnow halls. The combined project totals $70 million and will be funded through revenue bonds repaid with housing revenue.

The new residence hall and dining center are expected to be completed in January 2015. The renovations to Marlatt and Goodnow Hall are expected to be completed by August 2016.

Schulz said he expected construction to begin sometime in the fall. “You’re not going to finish it in January (2015) if you’re not moving along pretty well by September,” he said.

Researchers from the College of Human Ecology’s Sensory Analysis Center and the Institute for Academic Alliance are moving into a new space at 1310 Research Park Drive, the old location of Nanoscale. The university is purchasing the building from the KSU Foundation for $2.7 million.

The Regents approved this purchase with the exception of Wilk, who wondered why it wouldn’t be left open for an animal health-related company.

He said it’s a prime piece of real estate due to its location near the site of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), which is slated to become the new home of the nation’s research on large animals and their infectious diseases.

Schulz said the research park has enough space for additional expansion of seven to eight new facilities, and there’s use for the building now. Provost April Mason said work is already being conducted within the space by these researchers.

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