Tuition, student services affected by funding loss

Haley Russell
Assistant News Editor

A possible 6.4 percent higher education budget cut proposed by Gov. Steve Beshear has left administration re-evaluating tuition and student support services.

Tom Denton, vice president of Finance and Administrative Services, said these are the two main areas in which students are going to directly feel the impact of the budget cut.

Tuition Increases

According to the Council on Postsecondary Education, the tuition setting process goes as follows: a draft Tuition and Mandatory Fee Policy is submitted at the Nov. 10 Council meeting. The policy is then reviewed and discussed. No changes were suggested.

The CPE sets a tuition increase rate ceiling each year, stating how where each university in Kentucky may set their base tuition amount.

Jumps in tution are the immediate affect students will see due to the cuts, Denton said.

“Public education used to be funded more heavily from state appropriations and lesser from tuition and that trend has definitely reversed,” he said.

Despite the lack of funding and the increased rates, however, Denton said this is just a stepping stone in a process that has been transpiring throughout the past 10 to 15 years.

The budget cuts will force the University to look internally and possibly raise tuition rates, Denton said.

“That’s a significant decrease of our budget and we don’t have places to go to cover it other than tuition and other than taking internal funds, existing budgets and reallocating and/or using reserves,” he said.

Universities state-wide have begun to plan to see the budget decreases, despite the fact that the bill has not yet been passed by the legislature. Budgets for the next fiscal year are to be submitted around the time in which the budget is to be passed and the CPE’s tuition ceiling is to be set.

Regional universities are looking at a 5 percent increase in tuition, Denton said. He could not comment on how high Murray State fees will rise.

The CPE’s Tuition and Increase Policy states that if universities choose to increase tuition by 5 percent, they will still be operating on a deficit.

“The estimated increase in net tuition and fee revenue associated with a 5 percent rate increase would cover only about one-fourth of the potential $163 million loss associated with proposed budget reductions, unfunded (maintenance and operating) and fixed cost increases, resulting in a net operating deficit of $120.4 million,” it stated.

Bonnie Higginson, provost, said the budget cuts may have a more minimal effect until later years.

“It may be that the effect, at least for next year, will be minimal, will be what we’ve typically seen the last few years – a modest tuition increase,” she said. “I think most of us are concerned with the year after that, the 2013-14 year.”

Higginson said tuition increases are inevitable, but she does not know how much they will rise.

“There will almost certainly be some type of tuition increase,” she said. “It’s hard to deal with this kind of cut without considering that.”

Jeremiah Johnson, Student Government Association president, said SGA is sitting, waiting and watching to see how much fees increase and what programs are cut. He said he plans to take a more proactive role in the governmental aspect of tuition increases.

Student Support Services

Though the University is not expecting to drop services and auxiliaries offered to students, Denton said it will be necessary to re-evaluate these offerings and decide if each is needed.

“Student services aren’t going away, but there will be extras, you might say, that students enjoy that we want them to enjoy, but we may want to look at reviewing those options,” he said.

Auxiliary services, clubs, intramurals, counseling to students and on-campus organizations will all be reviewed.

Denton said the assessment of all aspects of the University is critical to gain cost efficiency.

Higginson said she does not expect any academic programs to suffer under the budget cuts.

Johnson said he expects to see different activities cut across the University and that it is necessary that SGA budgets its money carefully.

“As a whole, we’re going to have to watch spending money, watch what we’re spending money on and more creative ways to bring activities to campus because, no matter what, we’re still going to be here and we’re still going to be providing an enjoyable time for students here,” he said.

*This story has been revised from the original print version.