KBOR approves 2% tuition increase at Wichita State; fees stay flat



Morrison Hall on the campus of Wichita State University.

The Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday approved Wichita State University’s tuition and fees proposal for the 2021 fiscal year. 

The proposal includes a 2% tuition raise and no increases to mandatory student fees. President Jay Golden unveiled the plan last month, saying the tuition increase and a list of cost-saving measures will help make up for lost revenue this fiscal year. 

“We are, by far, still the most affordable research institution in the region and amongst our peers,” Golden said on Wednesday in a presentation to KBOR.

The proposal was approved as universities across Kansas and the United States brace not only for lost revenue, but for potential drops in enrollment and state funding.

WSU is estimating a headcount of about 15,592 students this fall, down 466 from last year’s count, according to the tuition and fees proposal submitted to KBOR.

“An enrollment decline is certainly projected at most of our universities,” Regent Mark Hutton said on Wednesday at KBOR’s monthly two-day meeting.

WSU’s tuition increase is expected to cost about $67 per semester for residential undergraduate students taking 15 credit hours. Non-residential undergraduate students can expect an increase of about $159 for the same course load. 

The bump in tuition is expected to generate about $1.7 million and will help cover a $1 million increase to student scholarships, as well as the university’s overall response to the pandemic’s financial impact. 

“I understand that this is difficult news,” Golden wrote May 28 in a letter to the campus community. “Please be assured that the decision to make this recommendation was not done without significant conversation with the Division of Finance and Administration, the university budget advisory committee and students.”

“It was also not done without exploring many or other possible alternatives and the impact on our students.”

With the tuition increase, the university is still expecting about $5.1 million in lost tuition revenue. To alleviate the shortfall, the university is also employing a list of cost-saving measures, including:

  • A hiring freeze and restrictions on discretionary spending that began in April 
  • A 2% budget cut to each division of the university for the 2021 fiscal year and internal reallocations (approx. $3 million) 
  • Setting aside funds for budgeted expenses that did not occur in the 2020 fiscal year (approx. $2.5 million)
  • Voluntary temporary athletic furloughs for academic deans and temporary salary reductions for university executives and coaching staff (approx. $100,000) 
  • A review process for new hires

Fort Hays State, Pittsburg State and Emporia State universities are moving forward with small increases to tuition, while Kansas State University and the University of Kansas are keeping tuition flat.

The regents also gave universities the authority to lower tuition rates for the upcoming fiscal year, if they so choose.

KU Chancellor Doug Girod said Thursday that flexibility will be helpful if universities have to move online again in the fall.

“In the unfortunate event that we find ourselves having to shut down campuses and going online again, … we probably, including out-of-state, would not be well positioned to charge our usual rates,” he said.

Blake Flanders, KBOR president and CEO, said the upcoming fiscal year is likely to be a tough one for universities.

“These are going to be challenging times, without doubt the most challenging year coming up from a fiscal point since I’ve been on the board, for sure,” Flanders said. “And maybe even in the history of our institutions.”

The regents on Wednesday also approved Wichita State’s request to build a $3.4 million addition to the Marcus Welcome Center.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story understated the university’s expected headcount decline for the fall semester. The Sunflower regrets the error. 

Click here for the the university’s full tuition and fees proposal.