Eastern Kentucky University’s Board of Regents approved an 8 percent increase in tuition for the 2008-09 school year the same day the president of the state Council on Postsecondary Education announced tuition proposals will be scrutinized.

With three regents absent, the board voted 8-0 Tuesday in favor of the tuition increase, which still must be approved by the CPE.

The tuition per semester would include: a $228 increase — from $2,841 to $3,069 — for resident undergraduate students; a $615 increase — from $7,691 to $8,306 — for non-resident undergraduates; and a $356 increase — from $4,442 to $4,798 — for targeted undergraduate students.

For graduate students, the tuition would include: a $246 increase — from $3,070 to $3,316 — for resident students; a $674 increase — from $8,419 to $9,093 — for non-residents; and a $384 increase — from $4,801 to $5,185 — for targeted graduate students.

“We wish it could be smaller,” EKU President Doug Whitlock said about the increase.

Institutions across the state have passed or are proposing tuition increases to offset 3 percent in cuts in state appropriations each of the next two years.

The cuts could have been deeper for universities if Gov. Steve Beshear’s original budget proposal, including 12 percent cuts over the two-year-period, would have been passed by the General Assembly.

“Am I content that 3 percent was the best they could do with the resources? Yes,” Whitlock said. “But, am I satisfied with the outcome? No.”

The state CPE had requested for EKU a 6.8 percent increase or $5.4 million more in general fund appropriation from the state from the previous year.

However, EKU actually will receive 5.7 percent less or a decrease of $4.5 million for 2008-09 than last year.

EKU’s tuition increase would produce an additional $7.3 million in revenue received from tuition and fees for a total of $99.3 million.

CPE President Brad Cowgill announced Tuesday that there is a strong consensus among council members that favors a conservative approach to tuition growth in order to maintain college affordability and progress toward the state’s goal of doubling the number of college degree holders by 2020.

“This is a time of fiscal constraint all across the state, in both the public and private sectors,” he said. “The council will be working with the institutions to manage costs, improve quality and maintain affordability.

EKU and other institutions will supply CPE with tuition proposals by Friday and open hearings on the proposals will be conducted Wednesday, April 30, and Thursday, May 1, in Frankfort.

Kentucky’s postsecondary education system has increased undergraduate tuition rates at the average rate of approximately 10 percent per year for the past 10 consecutive years, a rate about three times greater than the rate of inflation, Cowgill said.

Currently, tuition generates more than $1 billion per year, an amount roughly equal to general fund appropriations, he said.

“There are no villains in this story,” Cowgill said. “Tuition has increased in recent years partly because general fund support has not kept pace with postsecondary education costs, but the rates of increase we have seen in recent years are not sustainable and the council is prepared to recognize that fact.”

EKU Regent Craig Turner, chair of the finance and planning committee, said the university has “an outstanding case to show that we’ve been diligent in what we’ve done” (with the tuition increase.)

“Our goal here is to maintain the achievements that we’ve made and not shorten the ones that are in the future,” he said.

“Unfortunately, there needs to be an increase. There has to be an increase particularly in a time when state funding has been cut to the extent that it has.”

For the 2007-08 school year, EKU’s tuition of $2,841 ranks in the middle of pack among other state institutions.

EKU is ahead of only Murray State University ($2,709), Kentucky State University ($2,660) and Morehead State University ($2,640).

University of Kentucky ($3,547), University of Louisville ($3,435), Western Kentucky University ($3,208) and Northern Kentucky University ($2,976) all have higher current per semester tuition rates.

The 8 percent increase approved by the EKU Board of Regents is less than the tuition increases approved the past six fiscal years at the institution.

Beginning with fiscal year 2003, tuition has increased 8.2, 12.6, 15, 22.9, 11.5 and 9.4 percent, respectively.

“Looking at the numbers over the past several years in tuition increases, I’m at least consoled by the fact that this is the smallest increase that we’ve had percentage-wise since I’ve been on the board,” said EKU Regents Chairman Hunter Bates. “Also, it’s one of the smallest percentage increases we’ll see statewide.”

The University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and Western Kentucky University have either proposed or passed 9 percent tuition increases while Northern Kentucky University plans to raise tuition by 9.68 percent.

Murray State University approved a 6 percent increase and Morehead State University’s tuition will not increase by more than 7.4 percent.

Along with the tuition increase, the EKU board also approved charging 50 percent of the hourly rate for each additional credit hour starting with 17 hours to help eliminate problems with a large number of students who enroll for 18 credit hours and then drop three hours early in the semester.

Increases in residence hall and meal plan rates also were approved by a 7-1 vote with Student Regent David “Doc” Fifer casting the only dissenting vote each time.

“I don’t think I would be inclined to support the residence hall increase at the rate it was presented given some of the other financial circumstances were having to deal with,” Fifer said.

Residence hall rates will increase overall by 10 percent bringing the cost of double rooms to a range of $1,537 to $1,777, single rooms to a range of $2,380 to $2,719 and Brockton family housing to $1,921.

“Our housing stock on this campus is one of those areas that’s in need of improvement,” Whitlock said. “We have some excellent housing and we have some that’s not so excellent. In order to be able to get ourselves to the point where we can support new bonded debt to renovate or at some point build additional residence halls, we need a revenue stream to support that.”

The meal plan rates will increase 4.5 percent.

The board also:

• Heard an update on the university’s capitol campaign, which has reached $22.5 million of its goal of $25 million.

• Learned more about the $22 million, 12-year energy savings project the university has with the Siemens corporation.

Bryan Marshall can be reached at bmarshall@richmondregister.com or 624-6691.

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