Deepening recession forces abandonment of state-wide tuition freeze


Financial burden is not just a reality for those who cannot find work this year, but also for students. As K-State students begin jobs or internships this summer, many might have to save a few extra dollars for tuition in the fall.
    A recent budget proposal through the Kansas House Appropriations Committee in Topeka has higher education receiving a cut of almost 12 percent. This decrease, in accordance with the economy’s current instability, will be represented by tuition increases at schools across Kansas. 
    In early March, the Kansas Board of Regents announced in a press release that a plan to freeze tuition costs across the state for the 2009-10 school year had been unanimously approved. The conditional agreement stated that among other things, the plan would help address important campus deferred building maintenance projects. The plan hinged on the ability of the legislature to keep its budget reductions to higher education under 7 percent.
    A month later, due to a continuing downward economic spiral, the legislature faced the difficult task of decreasing the budget further without hurting the programs it funds. The board stated it was still committed to the tuition freeze, provided that no more money was cut from higher education. 
    By the first week of May, though, a new press release was sent out immediately following the altered budget cuts from the House appropriations committee, as a 12 percent reduction in funds caused the board to alter its initial plan. 
    With students considering rising costs, financial aid might be even more important for many K-State students.
    “Seventy percent of K-State students are on financial aid,” said Pat Bosco, vice president of student life and dean of students. “With enrollment over 23,000 last year, that is a lot of common concern. A day doesn’t pass that I don’t speak with a student or parent, either current or prospective, about financing their education at K-State.” 
    K-State has seen tuition increases during the past few years already. Last year an annual increase of just under 6 percent was implemented. The leaders of all six Kansas Board of Regents universities met a few weeks ago and pitched their individual increase data to the board, which will vote on the increases in June. K-State was in the middle, with a composite proposal of 3.9 percent, or just around $240 per year for in-state students.
    University and government officials said they are still concerned shortages will occur between the decreased funding and increased tuition.
    “Tuition is a major component of K-State’s operating budget,” said Bruce Shubert, vice president for administration and finance. “A big chunk of that pays tuition and salaries. We’ve cut $13.5 million  out of the fiscal budget for 2010. That means around 200 positions will remain unfilled going into next year – many of those are staff and some faculty positions. People are being asked to cover more bases so we can continue to provide our core services.”
    “The worst thing you can do in an economic crisis is lower your standards of quality for a great education,” said Rep. Tom Hawk-D, Manhattan. “And the second worst thing you can do in an economic crisis is price the cost of a quality education out of the reach of the people in the state who really deserve and need it.”