By William Croyle
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS - Kentucky residents attending Northern Kentucky University full time this fall will pay 16.4 percent more in tuition than a year ago, the largest annual increase in the five-year tenure of president Dr. James Votruba.
Tuition for full-time students who are out-of-state residents will increase 7.1 percent.
The increase was approved by the Board of Regents . It's nearly double the increase from the 2001-'02 school year to this year, which was 9.7 percent.
The annual tuition rate for a full-time student living in Kentucky will increase from $3,216 to $3,744. Non-residents attending NKU full time will pay $7,992, up from $7,464.
"This would not be my preference, but the students have told me in strong terms to keep tuition as low as we can without compromising quality," said Votruba. "It comes back to what type of university we want to build, and the students have been very clear on that."
The increase is projected to generate $8.44 million next year. Of that, $800,000 will go toward construction of a new student union. Some money is also earmarked for faculty and staff raises, needs-based scholarships and an increase in faculty.
The state budget that was approved March 10 cuts spending for universities by 2.6 percent, which translates into a 1.8 percent cut at NKU during a time of enrollment growth.
The tuition boost comes on the heels of a 14.4 percent hike passed last week for 2003-'04 at the University of Kentucky
NKU, with an enrollment of 13,750 full-and part-time students-including 2,830 from Ohio - has historically been underfunded by the state, Votruba said. That, along with budget reductions and fixed-cost increases, contributed to the high rise in tuition, he said.
"We are the youngest of the state universities (opened in 1968) and we haven't had the same political leverage in Frankfort that other schools have had," Votruba said.
NKU receives state money based on a formula that compares the school to 19 other colleges and universities outside the state with similar characteristics, including student population, number of commuting students and degrees offered.
According to the most recent statistics provided by the university comparing the 20 schools, NKU was last among the 20 schools in 1999-2000 in state money appropriated per full-time equivalent student.
NKU received $3,924, compared to the median of $6,122. Indiana State University was at the top - $8,688 per full-time equivalent.
For 2001-'02, NKU received $4,166 per full-time equivalent, still last among the schools.
"Yes, we're the newest school, but it doesn't justify this," said Kathryn Herschede, a senior and student regent on the Board of Regents. "I know the state of Kentucky is in a financial crisis, but we're consistently at the bottom of funding - the very bottom."
Compared to other state universities, Northern Kentucky receives less than half of the funding provided to Kentucky State University, and is $900 per full-time equivalent behind Western Kentucky University, the second-lowest funded school.
"A lot of things could get cut here before raising tuition that much," said Trey Orndorff, a freshman from Highland Heights. "But the biggest problem is in Frankfort. I know we get very little money compared to other universities."
Rachel Reynolds of Florence, an English major who will graduate in December, has paid her own way through school. She said that accomplishment is becoming increasingly difficult.
"Tuition has gone up every year I've been here," said Reynolds. "It's going to get harder and harder for full-time students who can't work during the school year to come up with more money in just the few summer months they have to earn it."
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