By Lindsay Huffman

Eastern’s tuition for in-state undergraduates will increase by 5 percent next year based on the maximum amount decided by the Council on Postsecondary Education on Friday.The CPE voted unanimously to set the tuition ceiling rates at 4 percent for the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, 5 percent for the six comprehensive universities in the state, including Eastern, and 6 percent for Kentucky’s research schools – the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. Colleges are not required to increase tuition by these maximum rates, but Eastern’s Board of Regents voted last week to do just that.

A 5 percent increase to the 2009-2010 tuition of $3,156 for in-state full-time undergraduates per semester would equal roughly $3,312, said Shelley Park, the director of Student Financial Assistance. This would equal about $6,624 for the entire year.

Sue Patrick, the director of communication for the CPE, said the Council made the decision for ceiling tuition rates after two hours of discussion with the campus presidents in attendance.

Patrick said other campus leaders contributed to the final decision, too, some of which include executive and legislative branch leaders and student government leaders.

“In light of the current economic realities, I think there is widespread agreement that the tuition ceilings are reasonable, defensible, and will maintain affordability for students,” Patrick said.

According to a news release from the CPE, the ceiling rates would help offset the $96 million gap that has resulted from proposed state cuts and increase in estimated expenses on campuses across the state.

“These tuition caps balance the needs and interests of students with those of our campuses to maintain operations,” said Council President Bob King in the news release.

Park also said she thought the university did what it needed to do in order to pay Eastern’s expenses.

“I believe this percentage is what the institution had to do to meet the costs to continue offer instruction and services to students,” she said.”These challenging economic times are impacting everyone and the university has not been spared.”

Park said she thought students expected some type of increase and have begun preparing for it.

“I believe it will continue to be a challenge to students to find enough funding to pay for their education,” she said.”Many students have commented to our staff they will have to work many more hours to try to pay for their education this fall.”

Eastern Student Government Association President Afsi Siahkoohi participated in the vote by Eastern’s Board of Regents to increase tuition by the maximum amount allowed. She said she was not pleased with the original legislation of the board because the tuition rates were unknown at the time, but since the CPE decided on a 5 percent increase, she thinks Eastern made the best decision it could.

“I believe that the 5 percent [increase] is the best option given the economic situation,” Siahkoohi said. “Although Eastern is growing substantially, this should be able to help offset most of the costs.”

Like Park, Siahkoohi said she hopes students will be able to handle the increase well.

“I hope that students are not upset with the increase, because an increase is being applied to all comprehensive institutions in the state,” she said. “Hopefully, students will be able to manage the change.”

The CPE’s next meeting will take place May 20 and 21 at the University of Louisville, where individual boards will bring their recommendations for tuition increases to the Council for approval.