A student committee approved up to a 3 percent increase in tuition for fall 2017 in a special 7 a.m. meeting on Thursday.
The Tuition and Fees Strategies Committee recommended that tuition increase by no more than 3 percent. The recommendation goes to President Richard Myers, who then takes any tuition increase proposal to the Kansas Board of Regents.
The committee also recommended prioritizing compensation package improvements for university employees, as well as prioritizing needs-based scholarships through non-tuition funding.
The recommendation came after months of discussions where university administration outlined three scenarios for tuition increases. The worst-case scenario, under which the state government cuts funding to the university, included a 5 percent tuition increase. The best-case scenario called for a 3 percent increase.
Every 1 percent of tuition increase brings in about $1.7 million to the university.
Cindy Bontrager, vice president for administration and finance, said the amount of state funding — especially funding cuts — directly impacts tuition increases.
“People need to understand that when the state gives us money, we can bring tuition down,” Bontrager said. “When the state cuts us money, it impacts tuition: it goes up. And I think that’s the important message that we are really trying to get out to families is that what happens in Topeka affects us directly. It affects our pockets.”
The Kansas Legislature has yet to pass a budget for the next fiscal year.
“There’s a lot of politics going on,” said April Mason, provost and senior vice president. “So what we’ve communicated to vice presidents and deans now today is anticipate 2 to 4 percent cuts, reallocations, in their own budgets. But we’re all waiting for the Legislature, and there’s a lot of politicking going on.”
Pat Bosco, vice president for student life and dean of students, said tuition increases are necessary.
“Having no tuition increases, as much as Bosco would love to say that … we’re not going to be able to pay our bills and keep things going … with a zero percent increase in tuition,” Bosco said.
Voting members of the committee include Jack Ayres, junior in chemical engineering; Drew Bormann, junior in economics and finance; Cat Gutman, sophomore in architecture; Anna Jackson, junior in elementary education; Jordan Martin, senior in computer science; Trent McGee, graduate student in counseling and student development; Jake McIntire, junior in kinesiology; Will Moreland, sophomore in agricultural technology management; Victor Valdez, sophomore in economics; and Jessica Van Ranken, senior in political science.
McGee was the only student who voted against the 3 percent tuition increase cap. Gutman was absent.
Van Ranken, a former student body president, said without tuition increases, budget cuts will hurt academic programs.
“Remember that for the lower tuition is, the more that the programs that students come here for will probably be cut,” Van Ranken said.
Valdez, an SGA senator, said he supported the lower 3 percent increase instead of a 5 percent increase.
“Looking around the room, I’m the only sophomore here,” Valdez said. “This impacts more to me because I’m here for a little bit longer than you guys have.”
Bontrager said other state universities are currently considering 3 to 4 percent tuition increases. Kansas State would only consider a 5 percent increase if there were a state funding cut.
“If we don’t get a state cut, there’s no way I think the president would support a 5 percent (tuition increase), nor would the Board accept,” Bontrager said.
Tuition increased 5.81 percent before fall 2016.
Jackson said if the higher 5 percent tuition increase were needed because of a state budget cut, increases in scholarship funding should not come from the tuition increase.
“I like the idea of the needs-based scholarship, but I also see it’s still increasing tuition, so then we’re basically going to be using that increase to charge $500 and here’s $250 back of it,” Jackson said. “It’s basically taking it out of one pocket and putting it into the other.”
Trenton Kennedy, sophomore in entrepreneurship, a non-voting member of the committee and a former student body vice president, said some students are in a better position than others to afford tuition increases without corresponding increases in financial aid.
“Because of the very diverse population at K-State, there are a lot of students I feel like who can afford up to a 5 percent increase in tuition and maybe won’t even pay attention to it or blink an eye,” Kennedy said. “And I think there are students like me, candidly, a Pell Grant recipient, where if tuition goes up 5 percent next year, my Pell Grant isn’t going up at all.”
The Board of Regents in December approved a 2.1 percent increase in housing and dining services at K-State. There is no increase in the student privilege fee for fall 2017.
The committee recommended the university prioritize improvements to employee compensation packages, which were included on a list of planned uses for additional tuition revenues. Portions of the money would go to a 1 percent cost-of-living salary increase and to increasing the salaries of some employees who are more than 25 percent below the market compensation.
“The compensation and cost-of-living adjustment I feel like is really important to the morale of the people who do so much for our university,” Kennedy said.
While base salaries remain the same without cost-of-living raises, employees have less take-home pay because of increases in employer and employee contributions to benefits programs, such as the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.
Bontrager said the cost of living adjustment is one of Myers’ priorities.
“The president has been very clear that he really wants to do something for university employees,” Bontrager said.