BY Jeannine Koranda
Eagle Topeka bureau
TOPEKA — Students at state universities will see their tuition increase next year between 3.9 and 8.5 percent.
Wichita State University topped the list with an 8.5 percent rise, bringing tuition for an undergraduate student taking 15 hours to $2,248 a semester. That's an increase of $176 a semester.
The school plans to use federal stimulus money to help offset the increase.
"I don't like it," said Dale Neese, a second-year nursing student, referring to the increase. "There's nothing I can do about it."
WSU president Donald Beggs said the school will use $1.5 million in federal stimulus money to pay in-state students an automatic scholarship.
The money is part of $4.4 million the university will receive from the federal stimulus package. The remainder will go to maintenance projects that have been deferred because of the state budget crunch.
WSU is still working out the details but hopes to give in-state undergraduate students a scholarship of about $5.25 to $5.50 a credit hour.
Taking that scholarship into account, in-state students would pay about 4.5 percent more for tuition next year.
That's less than the 6 percent increase the school had originally requested in May.
"This is actually a better situation for our students," Beggs said.
On Thursday, the Board of Regents approved WSU's tuition raise as well as increases for the other five state universities.
Kansas State University's per-semester tuition rose the smallest percentage at 3.9 percent, meaning students will pay $3,093 for a semester, up from $2,977.
University of Kansas in-state tuition will jump 6 percent next year to $3,283 per semester, up from $3,097.
The school's "compact" tuition plan will increase 7 percent to $3,679. Under the program, students pay the same tuition for four years, but they start at a higher rate than standard tuition.
Despite the tuition increases and federal stimulus dollars, leaders at the state's universities have said the funds won't cover the cuts they've received.
WSU has already eliminated faculty, part-time lecturers and support staff to accommodate budget cuts, Beggs said. The tuition increase won't bring those back but could help prevent further cuts.
Donna Shank, the outgoing chairwoman of the Board of Regents, opposed revised tuition increases such as Wichita's proposal.
"I was not thrilled with the amounts from last month's meeting, so it really didn't make me inclined to approve even higher ones," she said after the meeting.
During the meeting, Shank noted that the state's budget woes were tied to Kansans' decreasing incomes and layoffs.
"People are losing their jobs and are not able to pay for school now more than ever," she said.
Other regents noted that the increases were needed to ensure state schools offered a quality education.
"It's a great buy to go to school in Kansas, in all of our regent schools, but we need more money," said regent Dan Lykins.
Regent Christine Downey-Schmidt saw quality higher education as part of the state's solution to the current economic woes.
"The only way this state will lower taxes and increase the tax base is if we educate students with a higher level of skills," she said.