Tuition cap to be proposed

Mai Hoang

For students on the Hill, anything that would save a few bucks may be a good idea.

But university administrators are arguing against a proposed bill that would reduce tuition – they say it could shortchange students in the end.

State Rep. Ron Crimm, R-Middletown, has proposed allowing students to pay the same tuition rate for four years. The idea comes in response to double-digit percentage increases at state universities across Kentucky.

Under the bill, universities would charge the same tuition rate for a student’s first four years of college. Universities could charge more if a student takes more than four years to earn a degree.

Crimm said he thought of the proposal after talking to a student from the University of Louisville who was struggling to pay for her college education.

“I know a number of people (who) are paying for their own education,” he said. “It’s very difficult to budget with these increases.”

Although Western had a 10.7 percent tuition increase last year, some on the Hill question if Crimm’s proposal will help in dealing with the increasing costs of college.

Provost Barbara Burch said the inability to increase tuition would create more difficulty for a university to pay increasing educational costs if there isn’t enough state funding.

Tuition pays for 30 percent of a student’s education costs.

“If you cap the tuition and you don’t provide additional state funding, what you’ve done is you’ve made it impossible for the institution to have sufficient funding to provide the kind of quality education the student deserves,” she said.

State Sen. Brent Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, said universities have to increase tuition to make up for their budget short falls as a result of a lack of state funding.

If universities could not increase tuition prices, it might limit what a university could do for Kentucky residents, he said.

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“I think everyone wants college to be affordable,” he said. “But that type of situation would limit access to Western, (the University of Kentucky) and other universities if they couldn’t make up shortfalls with tuition.”

President Gary Ransdell said Kentucky universities have low tuition and putting a cap would penalize them for keeping their cost low in the past.

He said he doesn’t plan to spend a lot of time dealing with the proposal.

“I don’t really expect the bill to go very far in the General Assembly,” he said.

But Crimm said since a university can increase tuition with each new class of freshmen, universities should be able to plan how much they need to charge each year to pay for increasing education costs.

Burch said it isn’t fair to make one group of students pay more tuition in order to pay for the tuition breaks of another.

Western students had mixed feelings about the bill.

“I like the idea because if it never goes above the cap, you’ll always know what to pay,” Owensboro freshman Casey Fisher said.

Others, like Russellville sophomore Juliana Page, don’t think the bill is a good way to save on tuition.

“It seems like it wouldn’t be that great if it wouldn’t allow them to improve campus, which is always in need of improvement,” she said.

Burch said legislators in Frankfort and university administrators should focus on finding other revenue sources for higher education.

“At the same time, we all need to look for ways to deliver quality instruction in an increasingly effective way,” she said.

Guthrie said he is optimistic the economy will pick up and state revenues will increase, but both universities and the state legislature should work together on funding education.

“You have to look at the university funding,” he said. “And what percentage should be from tuition and what should be from taxpayers.”

Herald reporter Josh Centers contributed to this story.

Reach Mai Hoang at [email protected]