The finance and budget committee of Western Kentucky University’s Board of Regents had a special meeting Friday, when it approved a 2012-13 operating budget that includes a 4.8 percent tuition increase.

Pending approval by the full board at the June 22 meeting, the university will have a total operating budget of $388,597,000 for the 2012-13 fiscal year. That’s an increase of about $3.5 million, or 0.9 percent, from the current year’s budget.

For the upcoming fiscal year, 44.5 percent of the university’s revenue will come from tuition and fees, which amounts to about $172.7 million, said Ann Mead, vice president for finance and administration. Another 18.6 percent, or $72.4 million, will come from state appropriations.

The budget passed in March by the General Assembly reduced WKU’s appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year by nearly $5 million, or 6.4 percent.

In April, the Council on Postsecondary Education set a maximum tuition increase of 5 percent for comprehensive state universities, which include WKU.

Mead decided to recommend a tuition increase of 4.8 percent rather than 5 percent so that the rate per credit hour would be an even dollar amount, she said.

A 4.8 percent increase means tuition for a full-time, in-state undergraduate would be $4,236 per semester, up from $4,042 this year. The increase would mean a cost of $353 per credit hour.

Tuition for an out-of-state undergraduate would be $10,500, up from $10,008 this year. A graduate credit hour would cost $467 for an in-state student or $583 for an out-of-state student.

The cost of meal plans and textbooks would remain the same, but housing would increase 2.9 percent to $2,120, up from $2,060 this year.

In addition, under the new budget, all students would be charged an additional fee for online classes.

It costs 20 percent more to deliver a course online rather than in the classroom, Provost Gordon Emslie said. But until now, only part-time students were charged extra for online classes, while full-time students didn’t have to pay a fee.

“It’s no longer fiscally feasible to offer them for free,” Emslie said.

Regent Melissa Dennison said she doesn’t think students who have a required class that’s only offered online should have to pay extra.

Mead said that doesn’t happen often and having an online class fee is consistent with what other universities are doing.

“We’ve reached the point where we just can’t afford to give courses away,” she said.

WKU President Gary Ransdell said he believes the budget shields most of the campus from cuts.

Ransdell said he’s most proud of the fact that the university is able to absorb the cuts without laying anyone off or ending any of the searches for 77 open positions.

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Silas Dogwood
Silas Dogwood

Among other things, this shows why the state needs to get a handle on the use of Tax Increment Finance in areas that are only fictitiously blighted. In Bowling Green alone, the state tax revenue that will be diverted into the downtown signature TIF district is hoped to be enough to service the accumulated debt. The TIF hasn't shared hard numbers, but one can estimate based on interest rates that the annual amount siphoned from state revenues into this one TIF district will start at approximately half of the five million dollar cut that WKU is trying to make up for by transferring the obligation to students and their families.

When one notes that we lost a booming, pre-economic-collapse, decade of free market growth downtown due to uncertainty over redevelopment, one wonders whether we shouldn't have used conventional financing for a ballpark and a performing arts venue and left it at that.