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Kansas Regents to Universities: Tone Down Your Tuition Hikes

File photo by Chris Neal for the Kansas News Service

Rethink those planned tuition hikes. That’s the word from the Kansas Board of Regents, which is considering tuition proposals from universities not long after lawmakers approved a state funding boost meant to hold down student costs.

Regent Mark Hutton, a former state representative himself, said lawmakers won’t be happy to see tuition rise after adding around $30 million for higher education in the state budget.

“I think they’re going to feel a little bit betrayed,” Hutton said, “that we didn’t seize an opportunity with the increased funding to channel that toward stabilizing tuition.”

Kansas State University is asking for the biggest increase, 3.1 percent. The University of Kansas is actually proposing to cut tuition at its Edwards satellite campus.

Overall the hikes are smaller than those seen in recent years when state support was leaner. In past years, some of the increases ranged from 7 to 9 percent.

Of the nine institutions, six of them have proposed cutting tuition, keeping it flat or increasing it by 1 percent.

“I just want to keep it in perspective,” Regent Dave Murfin said. “I’d say there are six institutions that have done an outstanding job.”

During recent state budget troubles, higher education experienced some cuts. Lawmakers passed a spending plan this year that would reverse the cuts and add additional funds for targeted programs and aid to the universities. The budget bill has been sent to Gov. Laura Kelly, who hasn’t yet signed it.

Regents Chairman Dennis Mullin said he told lawmakers that if they approved a $50 million increase for higher education then the board would push for flat tuition. Lawmakers were $20 million short of that mark.

But Mullin made clear what he wanted to see the universities propose for tuition hikes: “Zero.”

“I think they have to look seriously at what they’ve offered,” Mullin said in an interview, “and come back and say it’s an absolute necessity or not a necessity.”

He’d like the universities to come back with different proposals before the regents vote on tuition rates next month.

University of Kansas Chancellor Doug Girod has previously noted that higher education has faced rising costs for things such as health care during the years when state funding was tight. So colleges and universities can start catching up, the regents’ initial request to lawmakers this year was a two-year boost of $85 million.

“What they did this session was phenomenal,” Girod said. “But remind them that this was planned to be a stepwise approach.”

Regent Ann Brandau-Murguia signaled her opposition to the proposed tuition increases because of rising costs pricing out students from less affluent families.

“I just see the gap getting wider,” she said. “So, I’m a zero.”

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