While the future of state funding remained uncertain Tuesday evening, the Tuition Fees and Strategies Committee approved three scenarios based on potential changes to the cost of tuition. The recommendations predict that tuition may see the smallest rate increase since the turn of the century, with likely increases ranging from 0.8 to 2.65 percent.
While Cindy Bontrager, vice president for administration and finance, presented a series of spreadsheets, a joint budget committee attempted to come to a consensus on the state’s budget. Part of this debate was centered around funding for state universities.the state reclaimed $24 million from funds allocated to higher education. The legislature is now considering a partial restoration of these funds. The House proposes the return of $12 million dollars, while the Senate is offering up $17.9 million.
If the Senate’s proposal moves forward, tuition may only increase by 0.8 percent. If the state decides not to provide any additional funding, tuition will hike by 2.65 percent. However, discussion focused more on the changes that will be enacted should the House’s plan be selected, though the decision has yet to be made.
Under this proposal, tuition may increase by 1.4 percent. For in-state undergraduate students, this would mean an added $4.30 to the current $309.10 per credit hour tuition rate. Out-of-state undergraduate students will be made to pay $831.70 per credit hour.
Bontrager said a 1.4 percent increase would be the smallest Kansas State has seen this century.
“We have to go back to previous years, to ’89, to find anything this small,” Bontrager said. “So I think we are definitely headed in the right direction with this.”
The scenarios presented by Bontrager are based on the legislature’s proposals, current fee costs and the number of credit hours taken by students during the 2018 fiscal year. However, the imminent tuition increase may come hand-in-hand with continued decreases in enrollment and revenue, Bontrager said.
“We know revenue went down this year, and we know it’s probably going to go down next year, but we’re not sure how much,” Bontrager said. “We’ve got estimates on that, so we’re doing planning now to set us up for next year as successfully as we can knowing what we know with credit hours.”
In light of these predictions, Bontrager and April Mason, provost and senior vice president, reassured TFSC that the university will not use increased tuition rates to soften the financial impact of decreased enrollment.
“We’re not going to offset the decreases in tuition revenue associated with decreases in enrollment with increases in tuition,” Mason said. “We don’t feel that’s right. That does mean we have to do internal re-allocations, which is much harder.”
In addition to internal re-allocations, the university will continue to work with the Huron Consulting Group to tackle strategic enrollment strategies.
Mason also said administration may look to K-State Polytechnic, which hired a former director of admissions from the for-profit DeVry University to the position of executive director of enrollment management and marketing last semester, for ways to soothe the Manhattan campus’ enrollment woes.
“He has brought some very different techniques of recruiting and response, and they’re seeing it be effective,” Mason said. “It makes a difference, and they’re seeing an increase in students. We want to learn from him.”
While there is a potential for K-State’s financial situation to improve, James Krotz, graduate student in counseling and student development, pleaded with Mason and Bontrager to plan for long-term and large projects to maintain the university’s reputation and value.
“Look down the road, please,” Krotz said. “It’s killing us. We’re losing our land-grant mission to places like Hays and Emporia. They don’t have to have the land grant title in order to take our mission away from us. Please, do something.”