Board of Regents approve tuition increase

Matt Kelly / Washburn Review

The Washburn University Board of Regents approved a proposal Thursday to increase tuition by 4 percent to support what were seen as long overdue faculty salary increases averaging 2.95 percent.

As the proposal was under consideration, Regent Dan Lykin expressed his approval of the increase. Lykin said the Kansas Board of Regents had also proposed tuition increases and that Washburn’s would be one of the lowest in the state of Kansas second only to Fort Hays State University if KBOR approved the other proposed increases.

“The other schools will be asking for tuition rates higher than Washburn,” said Lykin. “So I’m glad we kept it to 4% because there’s a reason that everyone’s is going up. Nationwide, state funding is not increasing, that includes Washburn. Our expenses continue to increase but our money from the state does not.

Washburn Vice President of Administration and Treasurer, Rick Anderson, presented the budget at the WUBOR meeting. Anderson said, in order for Washburn to maintain its level of teaching quality, the university has to allocate 76.9 percent of its budget to personnel compensation and benefits. He added that the proposed tuition increase is the most realistic way for the university to spend the necessary amount of money on its “people.”

Topeka Mayor Bill Bunton was the first of the regents to voice his disapproval of the proposal, and although many of the regents agreed with his concerns, he was the only regent to oppose the tuition increase entirely.

“I appreciate what you said mayor,” said Regent David Moses. “It’s kind of a domino effect. My concern is what would happen if we don’t address salary needs, which we haven’t for a few years. Without the tuition increase, we cannot provide a salary increase.”

Moses went on to address the rising cost of education and national student loan debt saying, “it costs these kids too much to go through a four-year program,” and encouraged the board to “think outside the box” of ways to provide high-quality education at a lower cost.

Regent Jennifer Sourk also agreed with the mayors apprehensions about the tuition increase, sharing her insights as a Washburn alumna.

“I am one of those students who came out with a significant amount of debt,” said Sourk. “I still write a significant check every month for my debt. I would love to try to solve this but it can’t happen here. We have to be competitive with salaries to keep teachers and keep our education at the same standard [as in years past] and make it better. Student loan debt is something that should be addressed on a national level.”

Perhaps the most interesting exchange of the meeting spawned from a suggestion by Regent Moses that some degree programs should be made to be more useful in the job market then they are now.

 “There are so many different kinds of degrees out there,” said Moses. “Some of which result in jobs and some that don’t. It would be interesting to take a look at those studies and maybe take a look at the needs of the job market, and try to make them more practical without compromising quality.”

Washburn University President Jerry Farley countered Moses.

 “There are many faculty members, in philosophy for example, who might think that ‘practical’ is being a good thinker,” said Farley.