Tuition rates rising nationwide

Western officials announced earlier this semester that students will see a 10.4 percent increase in tuition next fall, but students on the Hill are not alone. Nationwide, college students are being faced with the same problem.

Melvin Letteer, head of research and policy analysis at the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, said even though Western is at the higher end of tuition increases, some schools will have jumps that double Western’s.

“It’s a tough economic decision to make,” he said.

Luther Hughes, associate vice president for Enrollment Management, said Western compares itself to its 18 benchmark institutions when deciding about tuition increases. Those schools include Ball State University, California State University, Fresno and Bowling Green State University.

Many of those schools have not decided if they will increase tuition next year, but Hughes said, based on past experience, he believes Western’s overall tuition rate will be lower than most of its benchmark institutions.

“We’re on the lower end, absolutely on the lower end,” he said.

While Western may be on the low end of tuition increases nationwide, Western’s tuition hike is considerably higher than those at other Kentucky universities.

According to the 2002-2004 Revised Tuition Rates, students at Eastern Kentucky will see a 9.4 percent increase next year; Murray State a 7.5 percent hike; Kentucky 5.5 percent; and Louisville 6.4 percent.

President Gary Ransdell explained that Western’s tuition has been low for many years and that even with the 10.4 percent increase next fall, an important objective for Western is to stay below the national average for comparable institutions.

But increases in tuition may cause problems at home as well as at school.

“Anytime costs go up it affects people in real ways,” Ransdell said.

While tuition rates are increasing, the annual household income is not, according to Letteer in a KHEAA report entitled Postsecondary Education Tuition and Fees for Kentucky.

Letteer said if a family wanted to send a son or daughter to a public university in Kentucky, they would be able to do so. But it would take a larger percentage out of their household income than it would have in the past.

He said tuition to a four-year university would take around 8 percent of an annual household income.

“We simply have to monitor household income for those pursuing education at Western,” Ransdell said.

Provost Barbara Burch said next year’s tuition increase will not have a significant impact on the household incomes of Western students and their families. She said most people understand that under the current circumstances it is hard for tuition not to be increased.

Ransdell said for most families, the cost of a son or daughter going to college is not unexpected, but is something already built into their budget. But it will be more difficult for some students to afford the increase than others, he said.

The state offers financial aid for families to help with tuition costs, including the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) and tuition assistance, Letteer said.

Burch said that as the economy improves, universities will become less dependent on tuition to fund their budgets.

Ransdell agreed. He said as the economy improves, tuition increases will not have to be as dramatic.

Reach Molly O’Connor at [email protected]