Tuition will not increase next year at the University of Kansas to ease the financial burden placed on students and their families by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Kansas Board of Regents unanimously approved a tuition and fee proposal Thursday that will keep tuition flat for all KU students in the 2020-2021 school year.
KBOR also approved the student fee package proposed by Student Senate, which keeps the student fee flat for next year at $491.95. Senate originally approved a fee increase of $15 per semester but revised the proposal after Chancellor Douglas Girod asked them to keep it flat.
“We obviously find ourselves in a very unique time, and I’ve been very impressed with the proposals that we’ve seen,” KBOR chair Shane Bangerter said at a meeting Wednesday.
This flat rate is a challenge given that KU is facing a budget shortfall of $120 million as a result of the abrupt closure of campus in the spring semester, Girod said. Girod previously told KBOR that KU anticipates an enrollment drop of up to 10% as a result of the pandemic.
“Frankly, right now a lot of students are sitting on the fence,” Girod told KBOR Wednesday. “And I think we’re all dealing with that uncertainty right now.”
In addition to a potential enrollment decrease, KU is facing revenue losses from summer camps, research funding and potential cuts in federal and state funding, Girod said.
On Monday, KU announced its plan to resume in-person classes in August, but cancel classes after Thanksgiving.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Girod estimated KU's costs will increase approximately $18 million because of the pandemic. This includes technology investments, professional development in new teaching models, testing and contact tracing and cleaning manpower for the fall semester, as well as refunds from the spring semester.
This flat tuition rate will cause an estimated 3.6% decrease in tuition revenue for the KU-Lawrence campus, according to the proposal.
KBOR also approved a motion that allows the tuition proposal to be seen as a ceiling, rather than a fixed number. This means Regent universities can lower tuition later if they choose.
This action has a one-year limit, and will not be applied to future academic years. Universities need to report the rate change to the KBOR office before it is implemented.
This motion was not part of the original KU tuition proposal but was introduced by Emporia State President Allison Garrett at Wednesday’s meeting. Garrett said she wanted the ability to “be nimble” and adjust tuition to fit the market. KBOR decided to extend this motion to all state universities.
Girod agreed the change would allow for greater flexibility, particularly for out-of-state students who feel it would be unfair to charge normal tuition for online classes.
“In the unfortunate event that we find ourselves having to shut down campuses and go online again… we probably — including out-of-state — would not be well-positioned to charge our usual rate,” Girod told the board Wednesday. “We really need the flexibility to figure that out in this very dynamic environment.”
KBOR was clear that out-of-state students may not be charged a lower rate than resident students.
While tuition will remain flat, KU is almost doubling the international student fee for the fall and spring semesters. The fee was $160 last year, but it will be $310 in the 2020-2021 school year — a $150 increase. International students pay this fee every semester in addition to the campus fee paid by all students.
Last year, KBOR kept tuition flat for in-state students at all Regent universities, including KU. Tuition increased by 2.5% last year for out-of-state students.
This is also the second year in a row KU will hold tuition flat for all medical students.
This year, Kansas State University will keep its tuition flat, but the other Regent universities — Wichita State University, Fort Hays State University, Pittsburg State University and Emporia State University — will see an increase in tuition for undergraduate and graduate students, both in and out of state.
This was the first meeting in three months where the Regents met almost entirely in person. Observers and some staff members participated virtually.