Published on -4/9/2013, 2:18 PM
I appreciate Christopher Roberts letter of April 2 regarding rising tuition costs. I too am mystified at the cost of higher education, but I think a closer examination of why costs are increasing is necessary.
According to the Kansas Board of Regents, state funding of the six regents universities increased 13.2 percent from FY2005 to FY2008. Meanwhile, in-state undergraduate tuition at Fort Hays State University increased 21.9 percent. Tuition at the University of Kansas increased 48.6 percent.
Mr. Roberts laments a cut in university funding he believes will result in higher tuition. So if the Legislature were to reverse course and increase funding, students would see a decrease in their tuition, right? Unfortunately, the numbers show that doesn't happen.
Between 2002 and 2012, one semester of tuition at KU went from $1,442 to $4,234, a 193 percent increase. FHSU tuition increased by 86 percent. The average health insurance premium increased by nearly 100 percent. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates inflation at only 28 percent during those same 10 years. Where's the public outrage at a quadrupling of rates at KU?
FHSU should be commended for providing a quality education for a much more reasonable cost than its competitors. However, by claiming state funding is the reason tuition goes up, one has to assume universities are spending money in the most efficient manner possible. From 2002 to 2012, total spending by all six universities increased by 69 percent, more than twice the rate of inflation. Can taxpayers assume each and every dollar is being spent in the most efficient manner possible? To do so means universities are completely excused from controlling costs and in turn, lowering tuition.
Rather than turning to state legislators, I encourage students to turn to their student governing body. Although a tuition fee breakdown is hard to find, students are actually charged tuition and fees. In most cases, fees are set by the student governing body, which is directly elected by the students.
At FHSU this year, the in-state cost per credit hour is $141.10, of which $32.80 are "fees." As listed by fhsu.edu, these fees include student union fees, student athletic fees, and so on. If students want lower costs, then they could start by reducing fees through their student body legislators.
Of course, this rarely happens. Fees at FHSU went from $239 in 2002 to $463 in 2012, a 93 percent increase. Fees at KU increased 55 percent. Fact is, students are complacent in their ever-increasing costs.
Until students demand lower costs and get active in their own student government, they shouldn't expect the taxpayer to bail them out, especially since history shows more government money does not mean lower tuition.
And, yes, after two undergraduate degrees at Emporia State and one doctorate at KU, I finished with student loan debt equivalent to a nice house.