The Murray State Board of Regents met in special session last Friday and approved a 4 percent tuition increase, a 4 percent increase to meal plans and a 3 percent increase to residential housing. In addition to the increases, the Board addressed a plan to re-evaluate and re-allocate funds.
President Dunn had originally proposed a 3 percent tuition increase, but after discussion, Board members felt as if the increase would not be sufficient to make up for the 6 percent cut in state appropriations for next year’s budget. Approximately $3.3 million will be lost to the University because of reduction in state appropriations.
“I recognize the difficult times we are facing,” Dunn said. “But, I don’t want to put the burden of financial hardships on the backs of students.”
The 4 percent budget increase, approved by the board, must be examined and agreed upon by the Council on Postsecondary Education at it’s June 20 meeting. In years past, the CPE has approved tuition increases that do not pass the ceiling limit they set. This year they set a limit for all Kentucky public institutions at 5 percent.
The 4 percent increase to tuition and mandatory fees will cost the students approximately an additional $131 per semester for resident undergraduates. The set number will be based on a per-hour adjustment system.
The 4 percent increase to tuition is the lowest it has been in the last 15 years. According to preliminary numbers in documentation provided to the board, Murray State had the fifth lowest tuition and fees out of the Kentucky Comprehensive and Benchmark Institutions during the 2011-12 academic years. Dunn said he expects Murray State will remain in the bottom even with another tuition increase.
Regent Stephen Williams said he was pushing for a 4 percent increase because he felt it was the board’s judiciary responsibility to keep the University’s budget at a rate that could handle its expenses.
Even with the 4 percent tuition increase the University will have to pay around $2.4 million to cover the 6 percent cut in state funding.
The money being used to pay for the shortcomings is coming from a reserve the University had set aside for this reason. Dunn said the reserves would fix the loss of income from the state in the short term, but would not put the University in trouble in the event of an emergency. He said there were millions of dollars in other reserve funds.
Tom Denton, vice president of Finance and Administrative Services, said the University had more than one reserve. At the meeting, he made clear the money the University was going to lose was set aside for this purpose and that the programs and plans Murray State had for the upcoming academic year would still be funded.
Denton said the University had approximately $42 million in the general and education fund, unrestricted reserves, Murray State’s primary operating account. This fund holds the reserve the University will use to pay the $2.4 million.
Denton said the reserve, is one-time money available for unbudgeted purposes.
“From an institutional, financial standpoint it would have been better to set the increase at 5 percent but were also looking at it from a student perspective and how they would be better off,” he said. “It’s a trade off between what the University needs and what the students want.”
The board, after approving the 4 percent increase to tuition, discussed the idea of setting up budget teams for the next academic year. These teams would review the finances and operations of every part of the University in an effort to reshape the structure of Murray State and to reallocate funds when necessary.
The budget for the upcoming year is due to the board, a week before they must approve it, on June 1.
Following the tuition increase and discussion of budget teams, the Board of Regents heard testimony from Paula Amols, director of Dining Services and Racer Hospitality, and David Wilson, director of Residence Life and Housing.
After a proposition from Dunn to increase meal plans by 4 percent and residential housing by 3 percent the board discussed the matter and approved. The increase to meal plans will cost the students $59 to $65 extra per semester, depending on the plan, and the increase to housing will cost $60 to $75, depending on which residential college the student will live in.
Regent Jerry Thornton was not present at the special session.
The only regent who voted no on the three increases was Student Regent Jeremiah Johnson. Johnson also represents the student body as the president of the Student Government Association.
Johnson said he wished more students had taken part in voicing their opinions on the tuition increase at the President’s tuition forum held on Thursday, April 26.
“Students need to speak up about their concerns,” he said. “If more students got involved maybe the board and president would take their opinions to heart.
Johnson said as Student Regent it was his obligation to vote the way the students would want, but he said that as a representative of the University he agrees with the Board’s decision.
“Other Universities are increasing their tuition by more than us,” he said. “The board does care about the needs of the students, but there has to be money coming in to the University to fund it.”