The Kansas Legislature has approved a budget that provides $50.8 million for the Kansas Board of Regents for the budget year that begins July 1. 

Fort Hays State University President Tisa Mason released a statement Tuesday to express her gratitude to the Legislature and to the Regents. FHSU’s share totals $2,059,951. 

“I am very grateful that Kansas legislators have shown their support for higher education in the budget they just approved for the next fiscal year,” said Mason. “Access to a quality college education is critical in meeting the requirements of the Kansas workforce and economy, and it is gratifying to see that the Legislature recognizes the work that all the Regents institutions are putting into addressing the needs of Kansas workers and employers.

“I also want to thank Gov. Laura Kelly and the Kansas Board of Regents for their vigorous support and advocacy for the state’s public two-year and four-year institutions."

Mason said Fort Hays State consistently ranks among the top 10 public institutions in the nation with the lowest in-state tuition. 

“This new money will help Fort Hays State keep its tuition among most affordable in the nation,” she said. “Low cost is vital to provide access to the higher education necessary in the 21st-century economy.” 

Regional public universities and colleges, such as Fort Hays State, do not have the ability to base operating budgets solely on fundraising or tuition hikes, or even a combination of the two, Mason said. 

“For us, state budgetary support is a crucial component in ensuring that we meet our responsibilities to our state and our students,” she said. 

For almost two decades, Fort Hays State has kept tuition increases in the low single digits in favor of a business model built on increasing enrollment through providing high-quality on-campus and online educational experiences at the lowest cost possible. The model has proven successful, as evidenced by the university’s remarkable record of 18 consecutive years of sustained, record-setting enrollment growth. 

A study by the Kansas Leadership Center of tuition increases from the 2007-2008 academic year to the 2017-2018 year found that FHSU’s tuition was only $24.46 above inflation for the 11-year period. During that same time frame, enrollment increased from a 20th-day headcount of 9,588 in fall 2007 to 15,523 in fall 2018. 

The Fort Hays State model is also based on meeting the needs of students by recognizing new career paths and then creating programs to prepare people for them. This applies to traditional on-campus students and an increasing numbers of non-traditional students — defined as students older than 25. 

Most of these adult learners participate online or at remote sites because they cannot afford to leave home and family while gaining the education they need to advance in their current careers or begin new ones. 

A comprehensive survey by The Washington Monthly, released in the fall of 2018, ranked FHSU in the top 10 nationwide for adult learners. The survey found that 31 percent of Fort Hays State students fit the adult-learner category. Key criteria included not only low-cost in-district tuition and fees, but flexibility of programs, available services and adult-student graduation rates — 80 percent in that category for FHSU. 

“Regents institutions needed new money after the significant cuts of recent years, and the Kansas Legislature provided a much-needed boost this year,” Mason said.

“More money means more access. It means more Kansas students, young and older, will be able to get the education needed to advance their lives and contribute to the economic health of the state,” she said. “I and everyone here at Fort Hays State offer our thanks."