September 29, 2016

Affordable higher education set to become the next casualty of failed tax policy
New report elevates troubling trends in higher education funding, tuition hikes

TOPEKA – As Kansas college students settle into the new semester, many struggle to make ends meet after receiving unprecedentedly high bills for their fall classes. The balance of higher education funding has sharply shifted from the state to the student in recent years. A new report from the Kansas Center for Economic Growth (KCEG), “The Cost of Admission: Higher Education in Kansas,” analyzes the impact declining state investment and soaring tuition has on both students and the Kansas economy.

“Our state colleges and universities are the engines of economic growth,” said Heidi Holliday, KCEG Executive Director. “Kansas can’t prosper without an educated workforce, but families cannot keep pace with the skyrocketing cost of higher education. In the wake of failed tax policy and devastating budget cuts, students across the state are paying more for college than ever before.”

Among the report’s main findings:

  • State funding for regents universities has fallen 17 percent since 2008. That year – for the first time in state history – universities received $26 million more from tuition than funding from the state. By 2015, the gap expanded tenfold, to $263 million.
  • Kansas’ community college system – the higher education gateway for many young people – is enduring the same troubling funding trends as regents universities. Adjusted for inflation, the state contributed $8 million more than students in 2004. Today, students pay $6.5 million more than the state.
  • The state’s decreasing investment in higher education coincides with declining household incomes in Kansas. In 2015, the median income in Kansas was over $2,100 lower than its peak level in 2003.
  • Kansas students now leave school with an average of $25,500 in debt – up from $16,200 in 2004.

The report breaks down tuition increases at the state’s six regents universities since Fiscal Year 2001:

  • University of Kansas: 152 percent tuition increase
  • Kansas State University: 243 percent tuition increase
  • Wichita State University: 136 percent tuition increase
  • Emporia State University: 130 percent tuition increase
  • Pittsburg State University: 159 percent tuition increase
  • Fort Hays State University: 196 percent tuition increase

The KCEG report comes just days after the Kansas Board of Regents submitted budget recommendations for FY2018 to include additional budget cuts totaling five percent. The recommended cuts came at the request of Gov. Sam Brownback. Universities specifically warned that further budget cuts would result in even more tuition and fee increases for students.

“There is an undeniable relationship between state funding cuts and soaring tuition rates,” said Holliday. “There is also an undeniable relationship between state funding cuts and failed tax policy. Until policymakers stabilize our revenue stream with commonsense tax reform, more and more Kansans will find themselves priced out of a college education…and all the economic opportunities that come with it.”

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ClayRELEASE: Affordable higher education set to become the next casualty of failed tax policy