Choked Universities

Valley Voice

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A university education in Kansas is soon to get a bit more expensive. The Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s six universities, is reviewing proposals to increase annual dorm fees and meal plan costs. The proposed increases range from 2.5 percent (Wichita State) to 6 percent (Pittsburg State).

The increases in room and board would follow tuition hikes of five to seven percent approved in June, the first general tuition increase in five years.

Dorm fee and meal plans are listed in two categories: a base cost double-occupancy room with limited dining; and a higher priced renovated or new room with unlimited dining.

The planned dorm and dining costs at each school:

‒ University of Kansas: $10,922 (up $519); and $14,652 (up $696), both up 5 percent.

‒ Kansas State: $10,290 (up $440 or 4.5 percent); and $15,360, up 5.3 percent ($770);

‒ Wichita State: $11,620, up $270 or 2.4 percent; and $13,430, up 3 percent ($390);

‒ Pittsburg State: $8,964, up six percent ($508); pricier, $9,964, up 5.4 percent ($508);

‒ Emporia State: $10,310, up 4.1 percent ($408); pricier, $10,950, up 3.9 percent ($408);

‒ Fort Hays State: $9,079, up 4.5 percent ($307); pricier, $9,429, up 3.5 percent ($319).

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Attending class also costs more.

At KU, K-State, Pittsburg and Emporia State, undergraduate tuition is up five percent; at Wichita State, six percent and at Ft. Hays State, seven percent.

In the past five years, the Consumer Price Index has increased 20 percent and the Higher Education Price Index is up 14 percent..

Student tuition payments will outrun state aid by more than $60 million. State aid to the universities is estimated to drop $43 million this year, from $742.2 million to $699.1 million. Tuition is estimated to increase from $753 million to $760.4 million.

Here are tuition rates per semester, approved in mid-June by the Board of Regents:

Kansas University, increased from $5,046 to $5,298; K-State, from $4,744 to $4,981; Wichita State, from $3,421 to $3,623; Emporia State from $2,639 to $2,770; Pittsburg State, from $2,918 to $3,064; and Fort Hays State, from $2,073 to $2,218.

Against this, state aid to the universities is expected to drop six percent.

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State legislators have acknowledged the pattern in recent years and seem unlikely to reverse course, although the starvation policy set during the Brownback years has been pulled back slightly.

Last spring the Regents had requested about $25 million to counter inflation. It seemed reasonable, given the state’s estimated $4.5 billion in budget surplus and savings. The Legislature said no. The Republican priority is tax cuts for business and high-income individuals.

Many legislators remain proud of the disparities in education finance; a four-year college is no longer necessary, they say. The trend in post-secondary education is toward trade schools, technical colleges and the quicker, less costly

two-year associate’s degree. This is important, given the increasing press of student debt and the questions about the job market returns on investment in schooling.

These are real concerns. But we also need a climate of longer-term learning, an environment that says history has something to tell us, that the Earth is round, that happenings abroad are of consequence in our lives, and that character is still as precious, if not more, than specialized knowledge.

Ignoring or dismissing this foreshadows a state that weakens attempts to get in touch with civilization, a legislature that dismisses the pursuit of understanding and reason, that views experimenting with ideas as a needless frill. A place of sagging education is a place that fails to give the life of every day a certain dignity and purpose.

Students are the state’s most valuable asset. We should offer them the broadest opportunity to embrace learning, with adequate state assistance. The cost of education one thing. The price of stifling it is quite another.

SOURCEJohn Marshall
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John Marshall is the retired editor-owner of the Lindsborg (Kan.) News-Record (2001-2012), and for 27 years (1970-1997) was a reporter, editor and publisher for publications of the Hutchinson-based Harris Newspaper Group. He has been writing about Kansas people, government and culture for more than 40 years, and currently writes a column for the News-Record and The Rural Messenger. He lives in Lindsborg with his wife, Rebecca, and their 21 year-old African-Grey parrot, Themis.

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