Last Thursday was a day with bad news coming from the Wichita State University administration. Due to budget cuts by the Kansas Legislature WSU President John Bardo recommended a tuition increase of 8% for resident students and a 3% tuition increase for non-residents.
The expected increase will total $208 for undergraduates taking 15 credit hours, bringing in an expected increase of $4.8 million for the university.
In a memo sent out to university staff that The Sunflower received, Bardo said that his priorities were to improve university support for both academics and student life, allowing flexibility for deans in their spending, and addressing staff salary issues.
Those issues are in reference to the fact that university has had a general pay freeze for the past four to five years.
“As a major research university, it is crucial that we retain our good people and that when we hire we are able to compete for the best teaching and research faculty members available,” Bardo said. “Salary competitiveness is, therefore, a very high priority.”
Mary Herrin, vice president for administration and finance, said that the salary issues needed to be addressed due to the length of the pay freeze and difficulty in hiring at low wages being offered, an issue other universities have been dealing with.
Herrin said that the university was hoping for an increase in state spending for pay raises over the last five years, but saw only cuts.
“I think we thought that maybe next year would be different and I think with the economy it was very difficult for the state to provide salaries,” Herrin said. “A lot of the universities are going to do their best to do increases as well.”
According to university officials the tuition increase will offset $1.87 million of the budget cuts from the Legislature.
The rest of the increase, around $2.9 million, will be used for salary increases, promotions, and fringe benefits such as health insurance.
Herrin said that despite the complaints of the increase being too high, WSU’s proposal is on par with other state universities in Kansas.
What this means is that while WSU has one of the highest percentage increases, 8 percent, the actual amount of money being raised is less than the increases at Kansas University and Kansas State University.
While the tuition increase will help offset some budget issues there is still a large amount of money that will need to be cut from the university’s budget to make up for the shortfall. Bardo has already said that many of his Foresight 2020 plans would be either reduced in scope or put on hold to deal with the issue.
Bardo has also said that the cuts would be felt in many technology-based initiatives.
Rennin said there will be no major changes to the building plans for the university, meaning RSC construction and the new residence hall will continue. This is due to those projects being on a different budget than general university funding.
All of this comes to a bigger issue – there will likely be tuition increases next year as well, although there is no way to tell by how much yet.
Regardless of how much the increase will be, it is likely that students will continue to see their tuition rates go up across the state no matter what university they attend.