Tuition raise considered

The Board of Regents could vote as early as today on a tuition increase, while SGA was unable to vote on whether or not they support such an increase because they lacked a quorum to do so at a recent meeting.

The Kentucky Legislature passed a budget March 11, which NKU has been waiting for to find out how much money they have to operate the University.

A tuition increase also hinges on how much funding NKU receives from the state.

SGA failed to vote on whether or not to support a tuition increase at their meeting Monday.

The meeting, which lasted close to two hours, started out with enough voting senators, but a quorum was lost as senators trickled out before the meeting adjourned.

The meeting was the first for SGA after the budget was passed.

SGA President Katie Herschede, who is the only student on the Board of Regents, said she would vote in the Regent’s meeting however the Senate voted.

She was left without a clear statement from the Senate when some senators left before the topic came up for discussion.

“At this point the Senate hasn’t given me a direction on how to vote,” Herschede said after the meeting was adjourned, the only official action that can be taken by SGA without a quorum.

She said she was unsure how she would vote as a Regent.

“I never expected this to happen,” she said.

Discussion on the proposed increase and subsequent vote were delayed by a resolution introduced by Senator Joe Myers.

The resolution presented arguments against a tuition increase.

“The current and future Students of Northern Kentucky University do not want to see their tuition raised in order to pay for things that will not benefit them,” read one section of the resolution.

The Senate struck one section from Myers’ resolution dealing with what he called an “ambush.”

“The Students of Northern Kentucky University were ambushed by this proposed increase by it being brought before the Student Government only two days before it would be voted on by the Board of Regents and it is the belief of the Student Government Association that this was done deliberately by the Administration to keep students from having a say in what their tuition increase would be and how those dollars would be spent,” read the section.

Administrators said they acted as soon as possible.

“I can look you in the eye and every student senator in the eye and there’s absolutely no intent to compress this time period,” said Mark Shanley, Vice President of Student Affairs. He said the Administration didn’t learn that the budget had passed the General Assembly until March 11.

The SGA Senate tied 7-7 with one abstention on the resolution leaving the decision to Herschede who voted against it.

After the resolution was voted on there were too few Senators left and the meeting was forced to end, cutting off further official discussion of the increase as well as any action.

The meeting started out with presentations by President James Votruba and Gerald Hunter, Vice President for Enrollment and Financial Planning.

They presented a plan where tuition would be raised 16.4 percent (up $264 from the previous year) for resident, full time undergraduates and 7.1 percent (up $264 from the previous year) for nonresident, full time undergraduates. Graduate, business graduate and law students would also undergo a tuition increase.

Approximately 2.5 percent of the total tuition increase will be used to support a new, $31 million student union if the plan passes the Board of Regents.

In the months leading up to the adoption of the budget, University officials prepared for cuts between 1.8 and 10 percent. Tuition increases were projected as high as 18 percent.

Votruba talked about the historic under funding of the University, saying the current budget numbers reflect 1998 enrollment numbers despite growth.

“We remain at the bottom of our funding for Kentucky universities per student,” said Votruba. “And at the bottom of our benchmark institutions.”

Votruba said the Legislature approved a 2.6 percent budget reduction for postsecondary education for this fiscal year, which translates into a 1.8 percent reduction for NKU. The university lost around $750,000 because of the reduction, adding to around $540,000 lost during last fiscal year.

While the Legislature actually increased base funding for NKU by around $1.8 million for the 2003-2004 fiscal year, the university only nets about $500,000 when factored together with the previous years’ loss.

Votruba said if some funds were not made up, NKU would be a different place; less personal with larger classes.

While the funding cut was less than expected, the increase in tuition was too much for some Senators.

“I was definitely going to vote no,” said Senator Lovingson Mtongwiza after the meeting.

He said he supports an increase, but nothing as high as 16.4 percent.

He said some of the things Votruba and Hunter talked about funding were not necessary.

“Some of them were wants, not needs,” he said.

Votrubasaid projects such as the new student union would help attract students and allow NKU to compete with local colleges.

Votruba and Hunter also presented SGA with a list of funding priorities gathered from the Vision, Voices and Values meetings with students and members of the community.

The top priority on the list was the student union.

Some of the Senators questioned starting a million dollar construction project when funds are scarce.

Dean of Students Kent Kelso said if construction was delayed it could possibly cost more in the future, depending on interest rates.