Tuition may increase by five percent, about the same amount that it was raised last year.
Ann Mead, vice president for finance and administration, said this increase would be $212 more a semester.
“What we’re waiting (on) is for the Council on Post-secondary Education to tell us what our maximum rate increase can be on tuition for resident and undergraduate students,” she said. “They will approve what’s called the maximum parameter in April.”
Mead said WKU is working with the five percent tuition model now, and they do not want to raise it any more than that because they are concerned with affordability for students.
“We think a five percent increase is probably the right number for the best interests of the student and our ability to pay our bills,” she said.
President Gary Ransdell said WKU has fixed costs that go up each year, so they just have to find a way to pay for it, and the 5 percent increase would just about equal the number a 5 percent increase would bring.
One of the biggest increases in fixed costs is money that has to go toward the pension, or retirement system, Mead said. There is an estimated increase of about $850,000 for that system.
Another concern is the costs of online journals, books and subscriptions for the library, which Mead said keep going up. Mead said faculty promotions are also a factor, as they come with salary raises, which occur every year.
Last year, WKU gave a two percent salary increase. This was paid for with one time money, but WKU needs to find a permanent source for this. The cost of the increase was about $2,140,000.
Mead said salary increases are important for retention and recruitment.
“If you don’t pay adequate salaries, you’re going to have trouble filling your positions,” she said. “You’re going to have trouble retaining your best employees, so the president’s very concerned about us being able, in this budget process, to identify funds to be able to have a salary increase next year. I don’t know if it’ll be feasible.”
The biggest contractual obligation is student financial assistance. When tuition goes up, the amount for scholarships does too.
“We do have some deficits right now in our scholarships budget, especially as it relates to… what we call state-mandated waivers,” she said.
Mandated waivers are where the General Assembly has said some people can enroll without paying tuition — groups like state employees and “war orphans,” which are dependents of people who serve in the military. Right now, the budget is over by about $13,000 for these mandated waivers.
Mead said they have an action plan, a six-year plan for what they want to accomplish strategically, that the board approved last spring.
Ransdell said WKU needs to find a way to pay for a modest salary increase they would like to give, strategic commitments they made in the action plan and $850,000 in things that they’re currently covering with nonrecurring sources that they’ll have to renew each year.
“The good news is the state cuts have stopped,” he said. “The bad news is there’s still no new funding from the state because we’re in the second year of a state biannual budget — two year budget— that did not have any new money for higher ed.”