Committee of students, faculty, administrators helps shape Kansas University’s tuition proposals

Before Kansas University presented its tuition proposal to the Kansas Board of Regents, much of the discussion on it took place among a 19-member advisory committee that helped set the new rates.

The eight students, five faculty, four administrators and two staff members took time to examine proposals, and offered feedback on how they wanted tuition funds used.

Lisa Wolf-Wendel, a professor in the School of Education, served on the committee, and said a lot of the discussion focused on how to best allocate money for raises for faculty and staff.

The group was divided into two camps, she said. One of who wanted to see the targeted raises for the most excellent faculty, and another who was concerned about the effects that might have on the morale of overall faculty.

If faculty were rated on a scale from one to five, no one in the group wanted to reward faculty who got a two, she said. Some were concerned about where the line would be drawn to determine who would get raises, she said.

“There’s probably more than 10 percent (of KU faculty) who are great,” she said.

The group eventually settled on targeted raises to top faculty and staff — with no raises given until January.

For the Lawrence campus, only one student on the committee — a student seeking a master’s degree — would actually be paying a higher tuition rate next fall.

The other students on the committee were either graduating seniors or were among the nearly two-thirds of KU students whose tuition would not increase because their rates are guaranteed not to increase for four years. The rate for incoming freshmen went up by more than 6 percent.

Jack Martin, a KU spokesman, said the group played an important role, as it set the recommendations forwarded to the chancellor. He said the students on the committee were chosen by student government representatives.

Regardless of where they were in their careers, he said the students were mindful of keeping tuition low, and weren’t focused on the benefits they would get for themselves without paying any extra money.

“I just don’t think they think like that,” he said.

Brandon Kuzara, a sophomore from Colorado Springs, Colo., said he was asked by a friend in student governance to serve on the committee, though he wasn’t involved in governance himself. They were looking for a male, out-of-state student, he said.

He said he felt like students’ voices were heard, and they held the line on raises for faculty and staff.

“We didn’t like what we initially heard,” Kuzara said, and the group agreed to change it. He also said the discussions remained collegial.

In addition to raises, students also pushed for more financial aid, and the return of learning communities, groups of students who take courses based on a central theme. Those had been eliminated in prior budget cuts.

Kuzara said even though he wasn’t personally facing a tuition increase, he was compelled to keep out-of-state tuition low, because that’s one of the main reasons he was attracted to KU.

“Being from out of state, the tuition at the University of Kansas was very competitive,” he said, and he wanted to ensure it stayed that way. “I didn’t want to see a 10- to 15-percent increase.”

By Andy Hyland

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