Ransdell plans to communicate with CPE regarding tuition

Taylor Harrison

President Gary Ransdell is making plans to reach out to the Council on Postsecondary Education before they make their recommendation on the maximum amount tuition can be increased.

As Ransdell said in public forums last week, WKU is working under a proposed budget that involves a 5 percent tuition increase and no salary increase for faculty.

He plans to put together some form of communication for the CPE board this week.

“I probably do need to go in and communicate with the CPE board about our dynamic this year and how we’re approaching things, which is different than how some other campuses are approaching their budgetary difficulties,” he said.

Ransdell said his fear is that the CPE tends to treat all campuses alike, when they all have differences.

“In our case, we’re trying to sustain quality and keep our workforce in place and keep our faculty-student ratio low, and do the things that our students expect us to be doing and not weakening our position,” Ransdell said.

If the CPE does not approve a 5 percent increase, there are a couple of different directions the university could go to work on the budget.

“None of them are good,” he said. “We’ve thought about options and possibilities, but I don’t want to speculate of what that could be at this point.”

The university hopes to avoid cutting programs and degrees, which would be a drastic situation, but further budget cuts might change that picture.

“We’ve cut an awful lot out of our operating budgets in the last few years, and I just am not of a mind to continue to reduce already lean operating budgets anymore,” he said.

Ransdell said he thinks most people on campus would prefer not to cut jobs or programs.

He said most of those with whom he has communicated do not wish to do a self-imposed budget cut in order to free up funds for a salary increase, and the plan for now is not to do that.

“And therefore, unfortunately, forgo a salary increase for next year in hopes that we can have a clean, balanced budget going into 2014 and then do the best we can from a salary perspective at that time,” Ransdell said.

Ann Mead, vice president of finance and administration, said they think the 5 percent increase is a reasonable recommendation, given that there’s no increase in state funding. But she said the CPE is concerned with affordability.

“They are trying to find an appropriate balance between tuition rate increases that impact students and universities’ ability to cover their fixed cost increases,” she said.

Mead also said she’s not convinced all universities have the same fixed cost increases.

She said the CPE’s decision is hard to predict, as it’s not an easy decision, but that regardless of the maximum parameter, WKU doesn’t plan to raise tuition any higher than the current plan.

“We would not recommend anything more than five,” she said.

The recommendation from the CPE will come at the end of April, but Mead said she thinks the CPE staff might let them know what they’re recommending about a week to 10 days before that.