3:22pm

Thu June 23, 2011
Eastern and Central Kentucky

W-K-U Tuition Hike

Next semester’s tuition increase is expected to get a final thumbs-up Friday during Western Kentucky University’s Board of Regents meeting.

Officials recommend a 5 percent tuition increase, which would bring in-state tuition to $3,972 a semester. Additionally, board members are expected to approve a student fee increase of $70 per semester to help fund renovations to the Downing University Center. In total, tuition and fees would increase 6.9 percent - $4,042, or $262 a semester - if approved.

The state Council on Postsecondary Education recently paved the way for universities to increase tuition next semester, allowing officials to raise it by a maximum of 5 percent. However, universities could request an additional increase if certain circumstances, such as DUC renovations, called for it, said Ann Mead, WKU vice president of finance and administration.

“They approved the special-use fee exception so (we have) a revenue stream to pledge toward DUC,” she said.

The tuition increase is necessary to offset state funding cuts, Mead said.

The 2011-12 budget includes nearly $9 million in unavoidable costs and commitments with more than $5 million in estimated fixed costs. The fall and spring tuition increase is projected to give officials an additional $6.6 million to help pay those costs - no state funding increase is budgeted.

When deciding how to offset a lack of additional state funds, the university has two choices. It can reduce staffing - personnel costs make up 58 percent of the university’s expenditures - or increase tuition, which is a majority of its revenue.

Officials decided to bump tuition rather than cut staffing

“The heart of your degree is the quality of your degree, and it’s about putting faculty into the classroom rather than adjuncts where feasible. It’s about keeping class sizes reasonable,” Mead said. “So, when we make these tough budget choices, we do everything possible to protect the quality of the programs.”

Officials also will consider a change in the way graduate students are billed. Currently, graduate students who take nine or more credit hours a semester pay a flat rate of about $4,160. If approved, those students would pay around $445 for each credit hour they take, which would result in a 3.9 percent cost reduction for students taking the recommended course load of nine hours per semester, Mead said.

For students who must take more than nine credit hours a semester, some departments are preparing to offer tuition waivers “to soften the impact,” Mead said.