With the state capping tuition hikes at 6 percent over the next two years, Western Kentucky University is now ready to craft its operating budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
On Friday, the Council on Postsecondary Education authorized tuition and mandatory fee ceilings for in-state undergraduate students at Kentucky’s public colleges and universities.
Ann Mead, WKU’s senior vice president for finance and administration, said in an email that the university evaluates college affordability and projected expenditures when deciding how to set its tuition and fees schedule.
A special meeting of the WKU Board of Regents’ Finance and Budget Committee is planned May 11.
“Tuition rates will be discussed at this meeting,” Mead said.
With the 6 percent cap in place, universities can only raise tuition a maximum of 4 percent in any one year, according to a news release from the Council for Postsecondary Education.
Additionally, tuition increases for schools within the Kentucky Community and Technical College System are limited to a cap of $12 per credit hour over the next two years, with an $8 per credit hour cap within any one year.
“Our goal is to maintain access and affordability for students and their families, while providing flexibility to campus leaders to respond to budgetary challenges,” Bob King, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education, said in a news release. “We believe these tuition ceilings strike the right balance.”
Kentucky’s General Assembly approved state higher education spending cuts of 6.25 percent this year, although $31 million has been returned to a performance funding pool for public universities. That pool rewards universities for performance on education outcomes.
In a report last month, the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy said that cut would amount to an inflation-adjusted 35 percent cut to state spending on higher education since 2008.
The Center also noted that, as university’s fixed costs have gone up with declining state support, the cost has been shifted to students through tuition increases.
“Tuition has already gone up an average of 52 percent when adjusted for inflation between 2006 and 2016, with all but two institutions raising tuition last year as well,” the Center’s report said.
According to the Council for Postsecondary Education, the new tuition dollars will only partially cover a $25.6 million cut in state spending on higher education and a $31.8 million increase in campus fixed costs for the coming year.
More than $40 million in employer-paid pension contributions to the Kentucky Employees Retirement System are anticipated in the second year of the state’s two-year budget cycle.
In recent years, tuition revenue has grown to become an increasingly significant part of WKU’s total budget revenue. An executive summary of WKU’s 2017-18 budget noted that tuition and fees made up 48.7 percent of projected revenue.
Last year, WKU increased its in-state undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees by 3 percent, amounting to an additional $145 each semester.
In the 2016-17 budget, it raised tuition and fees by 4.5 percent or an extra $215 per semester.
Campuses will submit their proposed 2018-19 tuition and fees for the council’s review June 22.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.