Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz proposed a 5-percent tuition and fee hike for 2015 at Wednesday’s Kansas Board of Regents meeting.
The increase, he said, would help give pay raises to university faculty and support staff, while putting money away for the school’s investment in infrastructure for the K-State 2025 plan.
“We’ll have about $11.4 million in new revenue,” Schulz said. “We are putting the vast majority of these dollars all into faculty and staff salaries. This is a continuing need at Kansas State University. To be recognized as a top-50 public research university, we need to continue to make excellent progress on our salaries,” he said.
That means for Manhattan campus undergraduate resident students, tuition would go from $261 per credit hour to $274.
For out-of-state undergraduates, that cost would go from $692.50 to $727.10.
Graduate students would also experience the 5-percent increase, going from $350.10 per credit hour to $367.60 for in-state students and $790.10 to $829.60 for non-residents.
However, veterinary medicine students would see a lesser increase because of the elevated tuition they already face, Schulz said.
“As you know the debt load for veterinary medicine students when they graduate tends to be very, very high, so wanted to make sure we kept that rate a little bit less, down to 3.5 percent,” Schulz said.
Resident vet students’ tuition would jump from $512.40 to $530.50 per credit hour.
Non-residents’ tuition would go from $1,162.10 to $1,203.
Program and privilege fees for students would also increase by 5 percent, including the program fee for online distance education called Global Campus.
“Let me suggest we’re really moving into new waters here on employee compensation,” Regents Chair Fred Logan said to Kansas’s six state university presidents. “I’m glad we’re in this position, frankly, because we can be masters of our destiny.”
Logan suggested raising staff salaries by only 1.5 percent instead of 2 percent so that tuition would go down to match that rate.
But none of the presidents or regents supported a statewide strategy for salary pay.
“I guess I’m more sympathetic to the problems of attracting good faculty than salaries,” Regent Robba Moran said. “I’d like to keep them as low as possible, but I also think we’re behind the curve a lot in some areas.”
Regent Mildred Edwards said that instead of having a flat pay-increase adjustment, she trusts the universities’ judgment as to what they should pay their faculty and support staff.
“They know the burden that they’re putting on their respective workforce far better than we,” Edwards said.
Logan agreed, but said regents needed to be careful about salaries. The Kansas Legislature made cuts to higher education, including a salary freeze, the past two years and restored it this session under the school finance bill HB 2506.
“If we’re not very careful about how we do this we will drive 5- or 6-percent tuition increases year after year after year after year,” Logan said.
During Schulz’s tuition proposal presentation, he cited a chart from 2012 that listed K-State pay for professors, associate professors and assistant professors near or at the bottom among 11 peer universities for pay, ranking 8, 10 and 11 respectively.
“All of us are tremendously underpaying the talent we have in the state of Kansas, and we’re just doing everything we can to try and get there,” Schulz said.
“A lot of our talented people, as soon as they become recognized or targeted and people are coming in and giving them massive salary increases to move across the border, then it really hurts us because we wind up paying a lot more to get a replacement who might not be as good,” he said.
The regents will discuss the tuition proposals next month.