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Costs of Kansas students increase considerably in state universities

Mallory Cortez understands that her dream of becoming a gynecologist and obstetrician is not cheap.

But the 22-year-old Wichita State University freshman was not prepared for all fees, book charges and other expenses that were accumulated along the way. Between classes, Cortez works as a pharmacy technician and donates his plasma for extra money.

It's a life from check to check.

"I was nervous." I was really worried about my future and the entire life of my career would be threatened by my financial situation, "Cortez said of the impact. of the sticker he found when he started college last year.

Students and parents have been concerned about the cost of college for years, but those concerns are now being felt strongly in Kansas after years of stagnating state funding for higher education. Governor Laura Kelly wants to increase funding and legislators have several ideas to reduce costs, from tax exemptions to incentives for scholarships.

Even so, students now provide much more funding for universities of Kansas than the state. It is a situation that is unlikely to change soon.

Less than a decade ago, the opposite was true.

Students paid $ 719 million in college tuition in fiscal year 2017, according to the Kansas Board of Regents. The state funding for the universities was $ 569 million.

In contrast, college student enrollment was less than $ 475 million in 2009, while state funding for colleges was almost $ 675 million that year.

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This table from the Kansas Board of Regents shows student and state funds for public universities in Kansas. last decade.

Kansas Board of Regents

Kelly wants to increase funding for higher education by $ 9 million in her budget. That increase would push Kansas higher education funds to 2017 levels after a cut that year. Funding is still well below the levels of 2009.

Kelly has said that the state should adopt a conservative fiscal approach to its budget and has no margin for error if a recession occurs. She is focusing this year on the K-12 school funds, the Medicaid expansion and the foster care system

Kelly's plan to restore funding for higher education to the 2017 levels comes at a time of financial pressure for Kansas universities.

The University of Kansas has moved to reduce its expenses by $ 20 million, a cut of about 6 percent. Kansas State University cut $ 15 million last year. And Wichita State University will ask students to approve a $ 6 per credit hour increase to fund the campus infrastructure one year after the college raised $ 95 per semester to build a new YMCA.

The Kansas Board of Regents governs state universities. Its president and CEO, Blake Flanders, said Kelly's funding proposal will help control the cost of education. It is still way below the $ 50 million increase requested by the board. Legislators must approve any increase in funding.

Throughout Kansas, the affordability of higher education is a major concern for parents and students, he said. In the focus groups organized by the Regents in 2018, university costs appeared repeatedly

"What was surprising was not that affordability was a problem, but … he was a fugitive in terms of the number of times he stood out, "said Flanders.

More than half of high school students in the listed groups consider cost an important barrier to higher education. More than half of the parents and teachers surveyed by the regents gave a similar response.

The cost of tuition and fees has increased considerably in the last decade. A Kansas undergraduate student with a full load of 15 credit hours at the University of Kansas or Wichita State University can expect to pay 50 percent more today than in 2009.

The KU enrollment and fees required per semester increased from $ 3,706.85 in 2009 to $ 5,573.95 in 2019. At WSU, tuition and fees increased by $ 2,733.50 to $ 4,135.48.

"In Wichita, one of our main export products is the talent of educated youth," said Representative Brandon Whipple, D-Wichita. "When we put people in debt, they end up taking jobs with much higher wages outside of Kansas to have the opportunity to pay that debt."

Whipple wants to expand the type of transfer credits that universities accept, enact a sales tax for school supplies, provide a $ 500 tax credit for low-income students who earn Pell scholarships but still have to pay tuition and create a tax credit as an incentive for people to contribute to universities to establish scholarships based on need.

Students are also increasing pressure on colleges and the state to act to help control costs. At KU, student government leaders approved a resolution in November to use open access educational materials whenever possible.

Traditional textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars for some courses. The College Board estimates that the average annual cost of books and supplies for a full-time college student is $ 1,240.

A bill before Kansas lawmakers would exempt student purchases of textbooks from sales tax. State officials predict it would cost Kansas approximately $ 10 million a year in tax revenue.

"I was in college a few years ago, and for a semester I spent $ 55 on sales taxes alone for books," said Rep. Nick Hoheisel, a Wichita Republican who submitted the sales tax bill for textbooks. "As a broken college student, $ 55 can do a lot."

At the University of Kansas, a food pantry for students, faculty and staff moved to Kansas Union a few years ago, a central location on the campus of the University of Kansas. Lawrence. Noah Ries, the president of the student body, said that the pantry, which used to be off campus, has experienced greater use since it moved


"It's a bit bittersweet because that's a great reminder of how serious the problem is," said Ries.

In Wichita, Cortez often eats in his sister's place and lives in an apartment he found through a friend of the family. All of that helps keep costs down, but it's still hard to save money.

When she needs a cash increase, Cortez donates plasma.

"Basically my plasma card is my gas card," said Cortez.

Cortez, who moved from St. Louis, hopes to accumulate tens of thousands of dollars in debt while completing his education. He sees no other way than "biting my tongue and putting up with it."

"For me, this is the only method to get to where I really feel that I belong as a medical professional," said Cortez.

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