All Kansas universities request tuition hikes; Emporia State plans to slash student fees

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TOPEKA — All six of Kansas’ state universities have proposed tuition increases for the 2024-2025 school year, citing inflation, declining enrollment and staff retention costs.

Emporia State University, diverging from the other institutions, proposed cutting student fees to fully offset the increase in tuition.

University officials on Wednesday had a preliminary discussion about the proposed increases with the Kansas Board of Regents. KBOR sets tuition and fee rates for the state’s public university, and usually formally implements these changes through a vote in the later summer months.

Jeff DeWitt, chief financial officer for the University of Kansas, said KU is proposing a 3.5% tuition increase for both undergraduate and graduate students. DeWitt chalked the change up to inflation pressures, market pay to retain faculty and staff, facility maintenance, and cybersecurity and technology costs. The change would add $28.6 million in tuition revenue for the Lawrence and Edwards campuses.

DeWitt said the university failed to attract top-shelf researchers on multiple occasions because it couldn’t afford to match other offers. He said many staff and faculty members at KU are also paid less than their peers at other institutions.

“If you want to be great, you gotta have a great workforce to do that, and you gotta bring in those top researchers and those top faculty to develop the workforce of the future,” DeWitt said.

At Kansas State University, officials proposed a 2.8% tuition increase for undergraduates and graduate students, an adjustment projected to generate approximately $5,583,399 in additional funds. According to the K-State’s document, the university has struggled with the pandemic, years-long enrollment decline and cybersecurity threats.

Wichita State University is proposing a 3.9% tuition increase for all students, estimated to generate $3.6 million in tuition revenue to offset operating costs such as student scholarships and utilities. The university froze tuition hikes through 2022 and 2023, but increased rates by 5.9% in 2024. 

Pittsburg State University is asking for a 3.5% increase in 1.2% increase in fees. The proposed tuition change would be an increase of $107 per semester for undergraduates and $125 per semester for graduate students. A proposed $60 fee per semester would support the College of Technology.

“During a time of significant inflation impacts to students and the university, this proposal will continue to represent significant value to students and families by keeping tuition rate changes greatly below general inflation, while allowing important investments in key strategic goals and student success and experience initiatives,” the university said in its written request.

Fort Hays State University is proposing a 6% tuition increase, citing uncertain future enrollment. Even with the increase, FHSU plans to reduce its budget by an estimated $825,000 next year, according to the university’s proposal outline. The tuition increase would generate about $960,000.

“As we progress through the uncertainty of the future and the challenges facing higher education, including record inflation, declining high school senior graduates, increased competition, and wage pressures, the university has instituted several measures to keep costs down,” FHSU said in its proposal. “… While we continue to see savings from our actions, we also plan for additional financial challenges.”

Emporia State University is seeking a 4% tuition increase for undergraduates and a 2% increase for graduate students. However, the university is also cutting campus fees by 17%, allowing for a net decrease in costs of $14.28 per semester for a full-time resident undergraduate student and $109.21 for a full-time resident graduate student.

“Our combined goal is always affordability for all students,” said Angela Wolgram, ESU assistant vice president and deputy chief financial officer. “Our students will actually be paying less next year to attend ESU than they did this fall.”

The request follows continued public outcry over the school’s mass firing of professors in 2022 and rapidly declining enrollment.

ESU fired 30 professors and eliminated programs and majors in 2022 before investing in new programs. The Legislature allocated a $9 million earmark in the state budgets last year and this year to support the endeavor, known as the “ESU model.” The governor used a line-item veto on the earmark earlier this year, but allowed it to remain in legislation passed shortly before lawmakers adjourned.

In the university’s written proposal, ESU officials said they expected enrollment numbers to stabilize in 2025, following a 12.5% plunge last fall. The university said it will focus on “programs most aligned with workforce needs and enhancing marketing to build the university’s brand and attract more students from the shrinking college-going population.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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