By Marty Finley

As discussions of budget cuts and hiring freezes drift over the landscape of state-funded Kentucky campuses, tuition increases are becoming a greater possibility?especially if the worst-case scenario, a 12-percent cut from university budgets, becomes a reality. At Eastern, the senior administration is giving careful thought to tuitions concerns as it plans ways to reduce spending without harming academic quality, said Debbie Newsom, vice president of financial affairs.

Originally, the Council for Postsecondary Education, or CPE, submitted a plan for a 10-percent increase in higher education funding from the state over two years.

But, as of Dec. 20, the universities and colleges were notified there would be a 3-percent reduction instead, Newsom said.

In addition to the immediate concerns of meeting the 3-percent budget cut, Eastern must look at other avenues?namely tuition and how it will be affected, Newsom said.

CPE had originally expected a tuition increase of 6 percent, in accordance with the 10-percent increase of appropriations. Now that the appropriations have been reduced, plans will likely change.

State appropriations and tuition are the university’s main sources of funding, and Newsom said universities have to do what is necessary to sustain operations.

State appropriations once prominently stood as the primary source of funding for universities, but as tuition has risen and the needs of the universities have grown, it has taken a backseat.

According to the 2001-2002 budget, student tuition funds totaled more than $38.5 million, while state appropriations brought in almost $75 million.

By comparison, the 2008 budget shows tuition revenues reaching nearly $94 million, while state appropriations make up almost $84 million. The 12-percent reduction, coupled with the current 3-percent reductions, would put state appropriations under $75 million, Newsom said.

Despite the shift, the money is spent accordingly, she said.

“There is no frivolous spending,” she said.

For instance, salaries and benefits have risen considerably since 2002, and financial aid offered by the university has nearly tripled from the $7 million offered in the 2001-2002 budget, she said. This money does not take into account Pell grants and loans, she added.

“Students get hung up on the tuition piece, without looking at how much financial aid offsets that,” Newsom said.

And Newsom said that, while tuition prices continue to rise, Eastern still has lower rates than schools like Northern and Western Kentucky University, hovering at a middle level.

“That’s kind of been our target to be at that mid-level, while greatly increasing our financial aid,” she said.

The university does not know what will happen as of now, but Newsom said tuition will rise if the additional cuts come.

However, she said the university will not increase tuition immediately, but will instead look for the best way to implement the raise.

In addition, Eastern President Doug Whitlock said financial aid will try to offset any additional increases. He said the office cannot help everyone, but they would do as much as possible.

“Nothing will be done where we feel like we are pricing the students out of the market,” Newsom said.