June 25 means a lot to Pittsburg State administrators.
June 25 means a lot to Pittsburg State administrators. That is the day in which leaders expect to find out whether their proposed budget will be approved by the Kansas Board of Regents.
Pittsburg State’s budget proposal included tuition hikes of 6.8 percent for resident undergraduate students (not including student fees), 4.3 percent for nonresident undergraduate students, 5.8 percent for resident graduate students, and 4.6 percent for nonresident graduate students.
The tuition increases were a “foregone conclusion” according to Kansas Board of Regents spokesperson Kip Peterson in an interview with The Morning Sun last week.
That was that case after the Legislature cut higher education funding by 7 percent during the regular session. The Board of Regents was prepared to absorb that 7 percent cut and maintain a tuition freeze, but when the Legislature agreed to a final budget agreement, the regents were cut an additional 3 percent, a cut in roughly $85 million.
Because of those cuts, each state university lost a hefty chunk of funding. Pittsburg State lost nearly $3.8 million compared to last year.
All state universities proposed at least 3.9 percent tuition increases across the board (with one exception: Emporia State’s planned tuition hike for resident undergraduate students was only 2.9 percent).
Ron Womble, PSU public relations director, said that these hikes, while serious, were not as painful when viewed in context.
Womble said the university views itself in two groups of peers. Even after the cuts, Pittsburg State is still the cheapest in one of those groups, consisting of six institutions with similar programs and characteristics. In the other, a five-institution group consisting of similar programs in the region (PSU, Missouri Southern, Missouri State, Central Missouri and Northeast A&M), PSU would be the second-cheapest even after the tuition increases.
However, whether the Board of Regents approves of the increases at their June 25 meeting remains to be seen.
“We are waiting to get directions from the regents,” Womble said. “None of us are taking any bets on that. They will make their decision on a bunch of factors.”
However, the tuition hikes would only bring in an additional $1.5 million. Womble said the university has been working to cut the remaining $2.3 million from other places in the institution.
“The university has already taken significant steps to deal with the shortfall,” he said. “We have talked about not filling open positions, each department across campus is being asked to cut operating expenses, we have delayed major equipment purchases and cut back on travel costs. We are working very hard to make the cuts so we are not faced with layoffs.”
Womble said that while there remains a great deal of difficulty in all of higher education, he said Pittsburg State faces a unique challenge.
“Higher education has a tough time right now, and we all do throughout the state,” Womble said. “It wasn’t that we didn’t expect to have to make cuts. It was a good news/bad news thing. Our enrollment has been going higher and higher. This past fall we had record enrollment, and there is no reason to expect we won’t reach that again this fall. The good news is with more enrollment, we have more tuition money coming in. The bad news is with higher enrollment, we need to offer more programs to students to make sure they keep coming. It’s a double-edged sword.”
Andrew Nash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 231-2600 ext. 132.