I can’t believe I’m saying it. Thank you, Kansas Board of Regents.
On Wednesday, the Board of Regents decided to freeze tuition across all Regent universities for in-state students.
Although tuition won’t increase for in-state students, out-of-state students’ tuition rates will increase by 2.5%. This is understandable, since the University’s primary function is to provide a quality education for Kansans. Also, in-state students and their families have been supporting the University with their tax dollars for years.
The Board’s decision allows KU students to breathe a sigh of relief.
In 1980, students paid $510 per year for tuition. If tuition followed inflation, we should currently be paying $1,650 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator. Instead, we pay $10,434 per year. This means, after adjusting for inflation, tuition has risen by a whopping 532% since 1980. Just in the last decade, tuition has increased by 41%.
The Legislature certainly hasn’t helped keep tuition down. Due to cuts to higher education funding, tuition now accounts for 71% of the cost of higher education. In 2001, it was only 35%. But our administration has proven themselves to be incapable of properly managing its budget. Who can blame the Legislature for their reluctance to give our administrators more money if they’re just going to waste it on ill-conceived construction projects?
After decades of skyrocketing tuition, the Board’s freeze is the first step in recognizing that the cost of higher education has shifted too far to the students. After all, if 71% of a supposedly state-funded university’s revenue is coming from students’ tuition, how state-funded is the university, really?
One could argue the increased burden on students reflects the fact a bachelor’s degree is more valuable now than ever. As a result, the thinking goes, students should be willing to spend more for a college education since such an education is integral to higher earnings later in life.
But this argument doesn’t make much sense. As a society, we recognize that a high school diploma is necessary for an individual to become a well-educated, skilled member of the workforce. But we don’t make students pay out of pocket to attend public high schools.
As the value of a degree increases, the government should invest more in students, not less. After all, public investment in education is one of the best ways to safeguard the future economic security of a society.
The Board of Regents, the legislature and Gov. Laura Kelly deserve our thanks for taking the first step toward realizing this future. Let’s keep pushing to finish the job.
Nick Hinman is a Junior from Olathe majoring in political science and philosophy.