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Kansas universities have raised tuition every year for decades

By   /   August 2, 2013  /   No Comments

ON THE RISE: The last time the University of Kansas did not raise undergraduate tuition rates was 1983.

ON THE RISE: The last time the University of Kansas did not raise undergraduate tuition rates was 1983.

By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog

OSAWATOMIE — It’s time for a history lesson!

When do you think was the last time undergraduate tuition DIDN’T increase at the University of Kansas? Ten years? Fifteen?

It’s more like 30.

According to historical tuition records for KU, the last time the institution left undergraduate tuition flat year-over-year was 1983. Every year since, KU has hiked tuition rates between 2 and 25 percent. Don’t believe it? See for yourself.

According to the data – which only dates back as far as 1970 – KU left tuition flat seven of the 13 years prior to 1983, though the time span is interspersed with notably-higher percentage increases.

We looked up similar information for Kansas State University and Wichita State University, however historical data for those institutions only dates back 25 years – not nearly far enough to determine the last time students received a reprieve from rising tuition.

Officials at the three other Regents’ schools – Pittsburg State University, Emporia State University and Fort Hays State University – have not yet responded to requests for similar data. We’ll report back when they do.

“The increases have been to address inflation, to address increased cost, things like health care,” said Jack Martin, KU director of strategic communications. “Being a very personnel heavy enterprise, health care costs are a fairly substantial cost. Those have risen substantially over the past decades. And there’s also the need to keep up with advances in technology.”

In June, all six Regents’ institutions hiked tuition between 3 and 8 percent in response to $44 million in state budget cuts over the next two years, though officials admit they would have increased tuition to some degree regardless of state reductions.

Martin said the only way KU could ever keep tuition flat again would be with “no inflation, and a level of state support that allows for the needed investment in not only faculty, but also faculty and student support, and the upkeep of the facility.”

But as we reported yesterday, KU was among the public institutions to increase tuition from 2004 to 2008, a time that also saw an increase in state funding to Regents’ universities. Martin said the funding increases only kept up with the rate of inflation, and tuition hikes were needed to recover from cuts in previous years.

Breeze Richardson, associate director of communications and government relations for the Kansas Board of Regents, did not immediately respond to calls for comment from Kansas Watchdog.

For what it’s worth, the Wichita Business Journal reported a few weeks ago that the average undergraduate tuition at research universities in Kansas is still lower than most surrounding states. Only Oklahoma posted a lower average. However, it should also be taken into consideration that in the last decade, undergraduate tuition at Regents’ institutions has increased between 84 and 193 percent, while inflation over the same period has been about 25 percent.

Related: University fundraising outpaces Kansas budget cuts
Related: Kansas lawmaker: University fundraising clashes with tuition hike
Related: Wichita State University fundraising towers over budget cuts
Related: Sky’s the limit for Kansas college tuition

Contact Travis Perry at travis@kansaswatchdog.org, or follow him on Twitter at @muckraker62. Like Watchdog.org? Click HERE to get breaking news alerts in YOUR state!

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Travis Perry is an investigative reporter covering news and politics for Watchdog.org's Kansas bureau. Before joining the organization, Travis graduated cum laude from Washburn University and cut his teeth as news editor for the Osawatomie Graphic, where he received numerous awards from the Kansas Press Association.