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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

WSU to increase tuition to combat inflation, predicted decrease in enrollment

Allison Campbell
Wichita State University President Richard Muma addresses the Kansas Board of Regents during its meeting on Wednesday, May 15. Muma requested a 3.9% increase in tuiton and a 5.64% increase in student fees.

Wichita State University President Richard Muma proposed a 3.9% increase in tuition to the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) during its meeting earlier this week. If approved, undergraduate, in-state tuition would increase by $9.43 per credit hour, from $241.55 to $250.97.

While the requested value is less than what was proposed last year — a 5.9% increase — and is considered “the lowest among our peers,” the suggested increase follows a more than 14-year trend of rising student tuition at Wichita State.

“Proposing 3.9% — we don’t feel like we’re out of line,” Muma said to the Regents Wednesday afternoon. “It is what we really do need to continue operating at the level that we are operating.”

If approved, tuition for an in-state student enrolled in 15 credit hours per semester will increase by $141.30 per semester.

Tuition increase

Over the last five years, Wichita State has averaged a 1.6% tuition increase annually, according to Muma. He also pointed out that Wichita’s requested increase in tuition this year is less than any other regional research-based university. 

“I feel really good about where we ended in terms of the approach that we took to vet our proposal,” Muma said. “We’re a research university, and I think I just want you (KBOR) to understand that connection there — that we’re trying to be good stewards of our resources even though we’re asking for an increase in tuition.”

Due to difficulties and delays in the new FAFSA process, which saw a 36% drop in completion rates in Kansas this year, WSU is anticipating declines in enrollment, especially from international, engineering and first-time students. As a result, the university predicts a $2.5 million shortfall in tuition revenue.

“Everybody should understand it’s a real concern,” Muma said. “It’s really easy for some of these families … not getting the answers that they need, is to just make a decision (like), ‘Let’s just wait a year.’ … I don’t want to be alarmist here … but I think that there will be potentially some significant declines in first-time college students going to schools this fall.”

“Reinvesting” in students

Muma said the proposed increase would go toward “reinvesting” in students through scholarships with an emphasis on need-based aid. An estimated 10% of tuition revenue goes toward need-based aid, according to Muma. 

There are 10 planned uses for the $3,663,335 in revenue from the tuition increase and contributions and costs from other sources. They are as follows:

  • $1,687,000 for 2.5% salary increases and market-based compensation
  • $1,458,458 for faculty operating costs (utilities, operations and maintenance)
  • $1,043,909 for strategic planning/student success and retention initiatives
  • $652,509 for capital assessment
  • $621,000 for fringe benefit changes, which will go toward required state-wide increases to WSU’s general use-funded positions
  • $487,317 for need-based aid
  • $308,827 for promotions in academic rank and tenure
  • $280,000 in academic program expansions, specifically for the growth and development of the department of physical therapy
  • $200,000 in scholarships

Many of these planned uses, like capital assessment, are required by the Regents or the state.

“(Regarding capital assessment) it is required by KBOR that each university set aside an increased amount each year — up to 2% of the current replacement value of the university’s mission-critical buildings — to be used for deferred maintenance,” director of communication Lainie Mazzullo-Hart said in an email.

Student fees increase

A 5.64% increase in required student fees will supplement support services and athletics at Wichita State. An estimated $399,000 will go toward support services to fund increased salaries and benefits for staff positions, student programming, student organizations and other miscellaneous efforts. The “big increase” — an estimated $750,000 — comes from athletics to help meet new requirements and “fill gaps identified in recent reviews.”

“The students (Student Government Assocation members on the Student Fees Committee and students on the Budget Advisory Committee) have been very supportive of all of these requests and have been part of the process all along,” Muma said.

Three colleges — the College of Fine Arts, the College of Engineering and the Barton School of Business — requested increases to continue and enhance operations. The colleges requested 2.56%, 3.2% and 4.1% increases, respectively. Wichita State’s five other colleges did not request additional funding or were granted additional funding from student fees. 

Mission-critical programs

Regarding program review, Wichita State will merge the women’s, ethnicity and intersectional studies (WEIS) program with another unnamed program. The Sunflower is awaiting a response on which program WEIS will be merged with. Meanwhile, the philosophy, geology, physics and forensic science programs will undergo action plans to sustain them despite decreased student demand and return on investment.

“Do we want to get rid of those programs? I question that … But I do feel like we’re in a good place to make sure that we’re offering quality programs,” Muma said.

The Kansas Board of Regents will reconvene on June 20, the last time for fiscal year 2024. Livestreams of past regent meetings can be viewed on YouTube.

Editor’s Note: The headline of this story has been updated to more accurately reflect the causes for an increase in tuition. Monetary values, such as cost per credit hour, have also been updated for clarity.

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About the Contributor
Allison Campbell
Allison Campbell, Editor in Chief
Allison Campbell is the editor in chief of The Sunflower. Campbell is a junior pursuing a journalism and media production degree with a minor in English. Campbell hopes to pursue a career in writing or editing after graduation. They use any pronouns.

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