Ransdell holds forums to discuss tuition increases

Mitchell Grogg

Tuition will go up 5 percent and faculty members will not see pay increases under a proposed budget for the university’s next fiscal year.

After meeting with the university’s Staff Council and Student Government Association Tuesday, President Gary Ransdell met with faculty and staff in two open forums Wednesday.

“We’re choosing not to lay people off in order to fund something or fill a budget hole,” Ransdell said.

While some objection was raised to the plan in the second forum, President Ransdell said the consensus among the faculty and staff he had spoken to was in favor of the increase.

In a presentation at the forum, Ransdell noted that in recent years faculty had received pay increases every year.

He also noted that ever-decreasing amounts of state funding have put a strain on the university’s overall budget, which he said needs to be made up with income from tuition. He said he plans to meet with other university presidents over the next six months to work on a higher education funding model to propose to state legislators in their next session.

“I hope we can compete and measure up to be one of the priority items in the state budget if other funds are realized,” he said.

The proposal would bring in just under $6.5 million in additional funding next year.

The three largest places where that money would go, according to data presented at the meeting are student financial assistance (around $2.5 million), an unfunded salary increase for the 2013 fiscal year ($2.1 million) and retirement and system rate increases (just under $900,000).

Until that can happen, some faculty and staff feel this budget will work.

Facilities Management Staff Member Darrell Saalwaechter said the increase is less than other area schools.

“It’s a nominal tuition compared to other institutions across the state and neighboring states,” he said.

Margaret Crowder, who teaches in the Department of Geography and Geology called the tuition increase a “necessary evil.”

“Nobody likes to see a tuition increase,” she said. “Nobody likes to hear that, you know, you’re not going to get a salary increase for next year.”

The proposed increase of around $400 per year per student would not increase the quality of education overall, Ransdell said, though he noted the increase will allow WKU to maintain its current level of quality.

The increase still needs to be approved by the Council on Post Secondary Education, a decision Ransdell expects to be made by the end of April.