Tough decisions are looming in front of the Legislature as the session comes to an end. I am writing on behalf of the entire student body of Fort Hays State University to let Rep. Sue Boldra know that we are deeply disappointed with the vote on a budget that will increase tuition for Fort Hays students 6 percent to 7 percent minimum and burden students with another rise in loan debt.
A recurring theme heard during higher education day was "How can we keep students in Kansas after they graduate our fine higher education institutions?" When students are faced with a current average of $24,218 debt after college, and Kansas has a median pay average of $39,676, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, why would graduates stay here?
They attend higher education institutions to better themselves and make a decent living that will contribute to society. This particularly affects Fort Hays because of the appeal of cheaper tuition -- not only for students in Kansas, but also for students in other states. This decreases our advantage in luring those higher education seekers to Kansas and thus will decrease the amount of graduates remaining in our fine state.
If tuition continues to increase, then we will see a decline of students willing to attend higher education institutions in Kansas and a continued drop in those willing to stay. Businesses are attracted to communities for a multitude of reasons, not just tax breaks. True entrepreneurship of small business begins at the higher education level. If we make it difficult for graduates to be able to invest in such endeavors then we will risk shrinking population and lose our fourth vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. Kansas must compete not only nationally, but on a global scale. If Kansas is to be taken seriously, then thought should be put into growing research and programs such as the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science. Instead we have chosen to limit them, which will move us backwards, not forwards.
I appreciate you taking time to read this letter and hope this provides additional insight to the thoughts of students at Fort Hays State University.
Christopher Roberts, legislative affairs director, Fort Hays State University Student Government Association