TOPEKA – Members of the Higher Education Budget committee on Thursday afternoon heard from top leaders from the state’s two biggest universities. Dr. Douglas Girod, chancellor at the University of Kansas, and Dr. Charles Taber, provost and executive vice president at Kansas State University, testified on the needs of their universities in the hopes of increasing state funding for next year.
Both universities’ leaders stated that major budget cuts in recent years have led to an increase in tuition and a decrease in faculty and staff.
Since 2008, KU’s state funding has dropped $28 million. According to Girod, increased tuition because of budget cuts has made the university one of the most expensive public university in the Big 12. KU’s in-state tuition and fees add up $11, 148 for the year. University of Oklahoma’s tuition and fees is slightly higher at $11, 762. Iowa State University is the least expensive with an annual tuition of $7,740.
“We don’t have wiggle room on tuition at this point. We’re doing our best to hold that at the rate of inflation and that’s what we need to continue to do for our students, but that’s becoming increasingly challenging,” Girod told the committee.
The Kansas Board of Regents recommended adding an additional $50 million to the higher education budget. However, according to Girod, even with that much money, the University would still have to increase tuition.
The University of Kansas’ tuition increases about one to two percent every year and 50 percent of students graduate with debt. Girod argued that the university needs more funding, not just to make college more affordable for Kansans, but because without it, Kansas will lose its workforce and the state’s economy will inevitably suffer.
The University of Kansas is working on cutting $20 million from its own budget, which will partially come from laying off 160 faculty and staff members.
Girod and Taber noted that the general landscape for higher education is bleak, with enrollment down and an overall decrease in retention.
“The environment in which we’re operating is increasing competition for enrollment at a time when demand for our students has never been higher,” Girod said.
Kansas State is facing similar problems. The university has seen a 32.8 percent decrease in state funding in the last 10 years, which led to an increase in tuition.
“The increase in tuition is not driven by a higher cost at the university. The university’s costs have basically stayed flat,” Taber said.
Taber noted that Kansas State has not been able to give faculty raises in recent years, which has led to some finding higher paid positions elsewhere.
The committee met with leaders from Wichita State, Emporia State, and Fort Hays State universities earlier this week and will hear from the president of Pittsburg State University on Monday before making its final recommendations for funding.
Kate Mays is a University of Kansas senior from Lenexa majoring in journalism.