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Tuition increases add to students’ load

State share of college costs on the decline

By The Mercury

It’s tough to spin a 5.2-percent tuition increase as “restrained,” but that’s what Fred Logan, a Leawood attorney who is chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, did on Wednesday.

He said that the tuition increases the Regents approved are the lowest for each university since 2001 and added, “I thought this was a year of restraint in tuition increases, and I believe that these are restrained.”

About all that makes the 5.2-percent increase for in-state undergraduates at K-State restrained is that, according to Mr. Logan, all the increases for the last 13 years have been larger. The latest increase dwarfs the inflation rate. Yet in-state students in Manhattan will fare better than their comrades at KSU-Salina, who will pay 5.7 percent more.

Meanwhile, incoming freshmen at the University of Kansas will pay 3.4 percent more, but because of KU’s tuition “compact,” their tuition will not change for four years; KU tuition for in-state transfer students will rise by 4.6 percent. Elsewhere, in-state undergrads will pay 4.9 percent more at Wichita State, 5.6 percent more at Emporia State, 5.5 percent more at Pittsburgh State and 2.5 percent more at Fort Hays State.

All except the tuition increase at Fort Hays exceed the 3.7 percent increase in funding the Regents institutions will receive from the state in the coming year. For context,  present state funding is 4.2 percent less than the Regents universities received eight years ago.

Casting a positive light on a lamentable record of state funding, Kenny Wilk, a regent and former moderate Republican legislator, said, “We’ve had stable funding coming from the state.”

The most appropriate observation on state funding and tuition rates came from Tim Emert, another regent who is former moderate Republican legislator. He said, “We continue to put the burden on parents and students and student debt. I don’t think the Legislature deserves any kudos for quote stable unquote funding.”

Neither do we. Although the Legislature has generally approved modest increases in state funding for higher education, legislators over the years have dramatically scaled back the state’s percentage of funding to the point that the public universities in Kansas are becoming increasingly privately funded entities.

And given that lawmakers’ priorities have shifted to historic tax cuts that undermine funding for all state programs and services, the state’s share of higher education funding will continue to decline and the burden on students and their families will continue to increase.

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