Finance committee approves 2 percent tuition increase

The Board of Regents finance committee meeting approved a recommendation to increase in-state tuition by 2 percent, which would bring 2020 tuition to $5,401. 

Nicole Ziege

WKU’s Board of Regents finance and budget committee approved recommendations to increase undergraduate in-state tuition by 2 percent and use about $3 million in carry forward funds to balance the budget during its meeting on Friday.

If approved by the board, undergraduate in-state tuition will increase from $5,301 to $5,401. This is the maximum percentage increase that WKU can make to meet adopted guidelines by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.

Under these new guidelines by KCPE, WKU and other Kentucky public universities needed to increase in-state undergraduate tuition by no more than 6 percent over two years. WKU raised its undergraduate in-state tuition rate by 4 percent in 2018-19.

Out-of-state undergraduate tuition will remain at $13,248 and international undergraduate tuition at $13,572. The out-of-state and international undergraduate tuition rates would remain at their 2018-19 amounts to allow “WKU to become more competitive in these markets,” according to Board of Regents finance committee information.

Tuition for out-of-state graduate students would increase domestically per credit hour from $899 to $917 and decrease internationally per credit hour from $962 to $953. WKU On Demand rates per credit hour would also increase for undergraduates, from $442 to $450, and graduates, from $607 to $707.

Ann Mead, vice president of finance and administration, initially recommended increasing in-state undergraduate tuition to $5,400, instead of $5,401. She said this would make the number more easily divisible by 12 credit hours, which is the lowest number of credit hours for a student to be considered full time.

Many graduate and professional programs would remain at the 2018-19 rates, and this is to remain price competitive in the respective programs, according to finance committee documents.

Debate sparked between several members of the board and Mead about increasing the $5,400 recommendation to $5,401 in order to maximize the 2 percent increase that WKU needed to make in 2019-20. The decision was approved by the committee to increase to $5,401.

The board’s finance and budget committee also approved using about $3 million in “carry forward” funds, or money that remains in the 2018-19 fiscal year, to balance the 2019-20 budget.

Regarding the use of the funds, $400,000 of the budgeted carry forward funds will go toward infrastructure repair, $250,000 will go toward upgrades for information technology and the remaining $3.02 million will be used to balance the budget.

There was a total of about $27.2 million in carry forward funds generated in the 2018 fiscal year. About $5.2 million will go toward offsetting vacant positions, $2.1 million will go toward offsetting a projected tuition shortfall and about about $1.4 million will be returned to the respective divisions, according to finance committee documents

When faculty regent Claus Ernst questioned the large amount of carry forward funds needed to balance the budget, President Timothy Caboni addressed his concerns.

“One of the things that is so puzzling to me about our budgeting is the size of the carry forward because when we talk about the gaps in our budget, the reality is it’s complex,” Caboni said. “The total of the year ends up not being what you had at the start of the year. I’m hopeful that as we use the new budget model, we’ll be able to adjust some of that.

With the committee’s recommendations, the Board of Regents will be asked to approve the 2019-20 operating budget during a meeting at a later date

Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow Nicole Ziege on Twitter at @NicoleZiege.