By Lindsay Huffman
After months of public debate over how to best raise tuition rates, the university’s governing board moved Monday to approve a standard tuition increase, raising undergraduate tuition by the maximum allowed. The exact size of the increase, however, won’t be known until the Council on Postsecondary Education-Kentucky’s ruling body on issues of higher education-weighs in and sets a cap on how much state universities may raise tuition by.
Debbie Newsom, the vice president of financial affairs, said that cap is expected to be between 4 and 6 percent. The CPE is scheduled to meet Friday.
The Board of Regents also moved to increase online tuition. Students enrolled in online courses are charged a premium-25 percent more than what they pay for standard courses. The board agreed to raise that premium to 30 percent. The revenues generated by the increase will be used to broaden the online catalog and to pay incentives to faculty who teach online courses, said Janna Vice, the university’s provost.
“Our first priority is to get general education [courses] online,” Vice said.
The board also agreed to raise tuition for graduate students by 4 percent. Newsom said the pay-per-credit model implemented last year for graduate tuition rates has “worked very well for us.”
Afsi Siahkoohi, president of the Student Government Association, was the only board member to vote against the proposal. She said she voted no because the legislation was too vague and the board wasn’t sure what the CPE would decide.
“It was uneasy for me, not knowing what students would have to endure in the long haul,” she said.
Additionally, the board voted to increase housing rates in residence halls by 5 percent. The increase will address deferred maintenance issues and will be used to fund special programs, Newsom said. Rates for meal plans, likewise, will be increased, rising by just less than 2 percent.
Most students will also face an increase in their recreation fees. For anyone taking more than 5 credit hours, they will be charged an additional $12 on top of the standard $30 recreation fee.
Students taking fewer than five credit hours may pay the extra $12 fee if they would like to use the gym or climbing walls at the Fitness and Wellness Center. Newsom said the extra fee could bring in an additional $200,000 or $300,000 to the Wellness Center.
During the nearly four-hour meeting, the Board of Regents also approved a one-year extension to President Doug Whitlock’s contract, which is now scheduled to expire July 31, 2014.
“While I don’t intend to be carried out of my office on a gurney, I do look forward to an addition of time,” Whitlock said to board members.
Board members were also given an update on the university’s many construction projects. James Street, who oversees the university’s capital improvements, said both the new performing arts center and the new science building are about two-thirds complete. Meanwhile, the academic addition to the Business and Technology Center is expected to be operational by the fall. Street added that he expects to have “full occupancy” of the Noel Studio for Academic Creativity by Aug. 1.
In addition to these decisions, the board voted unanimously to approve a new program in the College of Business and Technology that will offer students a certificate program in financial literacy.
“There’s been a remarkable amount of positive publicity nationally [about this program],” Whitlock said.
The board also agreed to lower the number of hours required of students to graduate in 32 programs, such as those majoring in some languages and other fields.
The next quarterly Board of Regents meeting is slated for June 7, when the board is scheduled to discuss enrollment and retention rates.