Tuition could rise by 5 percent

Data obtained from the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

Cameron Koch

A deep cut to postsecondary education in the state budget will cost WKU about $5 million in funding for the next two years.

This could mean a 5 percent tuition increase for students.

The expected tuition hike will cost students about $200 more, making tuition for full-time, in-state students $4,236 per semester, an increase of 4.8 percent up from $4,042.

“That’s a fairly modest tuition increase,” President Gary Ransdell said.

Ransdell said that fixed cost increases are around $5 million, and with the state budget cut of also around $5 million, the university is in a tough spot.

“The tuition increase of 5 percent is barely enough to cover our known fixed cost increases,” Ransdell said. “If we didn’t have the 5 percent tuition increase, we’d have $10 million to take out of our budget.

“Higher education is an expensive enterprise… Having been in this business for a long time, if a university can hold a tuition increase to 4, 5 or 6 percent, then it’s doing pretty good.”

Higher-than-average employee salaries, up-to-date technology and innovations are some of the factors that played a role in ever increasing costs, justifying the tuition increases, Ransdell said.

He said if not for the $5 million state budget cuts, WKU might be able to cut some of its spending by being more efficient, which would help in lowering the cost of a tuition hike.

With the cut, however, he said it wasn’t possible for the university to continue like it is without a tuition increase.

Since 2009, WKU tuition costs have increased at a slower pace. Prior to 2009, WKU had a series of almost 10 percent tuition increases, according to documents provided by Ann Mead, vice president for Finance and Administration.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had large tuition increases, and I don’t see us going there again in the foreseeable future,” Ransdell said.

Mead said though the 5 percent tuition hike is expected, it isn’t guaranteed.

The Council on Postsecondary Education sets the maximum amount a public university can charge for tuition. The CPE is scheduled to meet on April 20 and set the maximum tuition rate, after which the Board of Regents in the summer will approve the tuition change.

The university’s operating budget is being pieced together with a 5 percent tuition increase in mind, Mead said.

Mead said if the CPE granted the university approval to increase tuition more than 5 percent, a definite priority with the extra money would be merit raises for faculty and staff.

However, Mead said she wasn’t expecting the CPE to grant a larger tuition number.

“Instead of our assumption of it going up 5 percent next fall, it goes up 4 — we’re going to be a little hurt,” Mead said. “We still have some significant costs we’ve got to cover with no increase in state funding.”