Finance committee to consider 4 percent tuition increase

Nicole Ziege

The WKU Board of Regents finance committee will consider recommendations for the 2018-2019 operating budget on Wednesday, including increases for tuition rates, online course fees for full-time students and full-time employee salaries.

During its meeting on Wednesday, the committee will vote on whether to increase tuition rates by 4 percent for undergraduate residents and non-residents, according to the meeting agenda. At their meeting on May 11, regents asked the administration to consider a 4 percent tuition increase rather than the 3 percent President Timothy Caboni had initially recommended.

This 4 percent increase would set the in-state tuition rate, currently $5,101, at $5,301 per semester. The out-of-state rate, currently $12,756, would rise to $13,248 per semester. For international students, tuition would increase from $13,080 a semester to $13,572.

The tuition increases would generate more than $5.5 million.

Caboni has said the bulk of the new tuition revenue would be used to fund pay raises for WKU faculty and staff. WKU had a salary increase of 4 percent in 2008, but increases since then have been minimal or nonexistent, according to documents provided to the finance committee, leaving employee pay lagging benchmark institutions and the private sector.

Creating a 4 percent salary-increase pool would cost WKU about $5.1 million annually, according to the finance committee documents. If approved, merit increases would be determined in the fall and raises would take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

A 4 percent tuition increases for 2018-19 means that the maximum increase for 2019-20 would be 2 percent, under guidelines set by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education for the coming two years.

A negative to increasing tuition, according to the material provided to the committee, is that students who rely on grants and other financial aid to pay for college would be further stressed. Pell Grants for 2018-19 would cover only 57 percent of the proposed in-state, full-time tuition.

“Forty-seven percent of WKU’s students take out loans to pay their cost of attendance,” according to the documents. “While it’s unknown if the tuition rate increase will impact any student’s decision to attend WKU, it will, more than likely, increase the amount students borrow to attend WKU.”

Another recommendation the committee will vote on Wednesday calls for increasing the online course fees per credit hour for full-time students from $100 to $150.

This increase was suggested during the previous Board of Regents meeting. In addition to the tuition discussion, Student Regent Andi Dahmer raised concerns about WKU’s fees systems, and asked Caboni when the university was going to undertake a promised examination of how fees are assessed and disbursed, as previously reported by the Herald.

WKU’s online course fee increased to $100 per credit hour for full-time students in 2017. Eastern Kentucky University charges $409 per credit hour, and the University of Louisville charges $497 per credit hour for online courses for full-time students, but the online fees at other public universities in Kentucky range from $10 per credit hour to $65 per credit hour, according to the documents.

About 4,300 full-time students at WKU paid the online fee or one-third of the full-time undergraduate population last fall.

The committee will also vote on the budget balancing plan for 2018- 2019 fiscal year, which includes using money that remains from the 2017-18 fiscal year, called “carry-forward,” to help balance the 2018-19 budget.

The Board of Regents will discuss the budget with the committee’s recommendations during its meeting in June.

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