By Dena Tackett/Editor

WARNING: If you thought your bill was expensive this year, you may want to turn away when it arrives in the mail next fall. Eastern’s Board of Regents voted Aug. 2 to increase undergraduate tuition for the 2002-2003 academic year by 9.5 percent, adding $111 for in-state and $333 for non-resident students. This means that in-state full-time students will pay $1,464 in tuition and fees and non-residents will be out $4,020 to attend the university next fall.

Tuition will rise again in 2003-2004 by 9.38 percent. Then, full-time in-state students will pay $1,584 and non-residents $4,380 in tuition and fees.

Graduate student tuition will raise 9 percent for both the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 years.

The 8 – 1 vote to raise tuition came at the Board’s summer quarterly meeting. Regents Gary Abney and Barbara Ricke were not at the meeting.

Nick Bertram, who was sworn in as student regent at the meeting, was the sole opposing vote, although many other Board members were not happy with the decision to raise the tuition by so much.

“We serve the poorest region of the state,” Bertram said. “We’ve prided ourselves as being a school of opportunity, and it will be hard to maintain that.”

Vice President of Finance Ken Johnston said the increase was needed to provide a quality higher education experience.

“It does not behoove us to continue to be an institution of opportunity if the opportunity is not of the highest quality,” Johnston said.

The tuition hike is expected to generate approximately $2.9 million in revenues in the 2002 fiscal year and $3.9 million the following year.

“Our reaction to budget problems is to turn to the students and ask for an increase,” Regent Jim Gilbert said.

Gilbert asked other Board members if anything else had been done to reduce the cost of the university’s operation instead of looking toward the students first.

Interim President Gene Hughes said the university is in the middle of reviewing the university’s financial situation, including looking at what has been spent over the past few years. That analysis should be ready for the Board by October.

Hughes also said the university is looking at cutting expenditures in each of the five colleges and the administration.

Hughes pointed out that schools in other states in the region are seeing tuition hikes in the double digits, such as Alabama where raises were up to 16.8 percent.

The steep tuition increase is not an effect of the state’s budget downfalls and possible cutbacks on university spending. If that does happen, it will most likely only effect this fiscal year. The tuition increase is needed because of the university’s revenue needs, Johnston said.

When Eastern’s budget was passed in April, the Board voted to cut 22 faculty and three staff positions to help cut costs. These were all vacant positions. Johnston said the university also would leave several vacant positions unfilled.

Some regents wanted to know why more cutbacks weren’t being considered instead of putting the burden on students alone.

“It seems we bend over backwards to not hurt anyone except the students who are being asked to pay,” Boyer said. “I hate to see us do it, but I don’t see any other way for us to get that revenue right now.”

Gilbert, who said he “reluctantly” supported the raise, said he wished the university had spent more time looking at other avenues of revenue.

“I don’t deny that the additional revenue is needed,” Gilbert said. “I just want to make sure we are looking at all legs of the financial stool. I’m not convinced we are.”

The Council on Postsecondary Education has suggested that each of Kentucky’s eight public universities collect 37 percent of its revenues from tuition. Board Chair Fred Rice said the increase would get Eastern more in line with that goal.

The state’s universities were given the charge of setting their own tuitions in April of 1999. Although the Council on Postsecondary Education gave that power to the universities, each school’s tuition must be approved by the governing board.

This year, the schools must advise the CPE of their tuition for the 2002-2004 biennium by Sept. 1.