Ransdell to recommend 4.8 percent tuition increase

Gary Ransdell mug


WKU students could take another hit to their wallets, as President Gary Ransdell announced he would propose a 4.8 percent tuition increase to balance the university budget.

The increase would tack on another $200 in tuition for Kentucky-resident students. 

The potential tuition increase resulted from a 1.5 percent legislative cut to public university funding earlier this month, and WKU lost nearly $1.1 million in the state budget. A 4.8 percent tuition increase, in addition to the state supporting half of the university’s retirement funding, would give WKU a balanced budget.

“All divisions have now determined how their respective divisional budgets will be balanced,” Ransdell said in an email sent Tuesday afternoon to faculty and staff. “We have been able to protect most campus jobs and avoid catastrophic reductions.”

The biggest budgetary hurdles have been overcome, according to Ann Mead, vice president for Finance and Administration, but planning the budget will continue to have its challenges.

“We are having to implement another reduction in state funding at the same time that we have fixed costs that must be funded,” Mead said via email. “All efforts have been made to have a salary adjustment for employees though the percentage increase doesn’t align with our Action Plan or desired ability to reward performance.”

The percentage was decided on after the Council on Postsecondary Education solidified the maximum cap public universities could raise their tuition. The Council allowed universities to raise their tuition a total of 8 percent over the next two years, with a maximum tuition increase of 5 percent.  Ransdell said the CPE’s decision was more than he’d expected. 

“A month ago we were looking at 4 percent,” he said. “When it became clear that the CPE was going to come in around 5 percent or a combination 8 percent, and after talking with board members, we felt like we could minimize the budget cuts the campus is facing by getting closer to the 5 percent cap. We didn’t want to go all the way to the cap, but we got close. It allowed us to do the increase and minimize the extent of the cuts felt on campus.”

By the CPE’s guidelines, the most tuition would increase for WKU students in the Fall 2015 semester would be 3.1 percent. 

The budget also includes a 1 percent living adjustment for school employees, increased university contribution to faculty/staff health insurance, and over $4.2 million in additional funding for financial aid. 

“This budget also addresses some $5 million in budget deficits,” Ransdell’s email said. “$1.1 million of the budget shortfall will be addressed through the privatization of our Health Center and some cost savings in executive level salaries on the Administrative Council.”

Ransdell will present the information to the Board of Regents to approve the tuition increase and overall budget on June 27. He said he constantly kept in contact with the Board through the fiscal planning process, and the Board won’t run into any surprises in the budget at their next meeting. 

“I believe it will be well-received,” he said. “We’ve maintained good communication with the Board over the last several months. We’ve kept them informed just as we’ve been keeping the rest of the campus informed on these decisions.”  

Since the 2007-08 fiscal year, Kentucky universities have seen a 15.5 percent cut in money from the state totaling $168 million, according to the CPE. Despite the cuts, enrollment throughout the state grew 8.5 percent in that same period. 

“Since I’ve been on the Council, the universities have been cut by the state every year,” Council chair Pam Miller said in Tuesday’s meeting. “And every year, we have asked them to do more…It’s admirable that our campuses continue to maintain exceptional quality and service to students.”