Student survey: keep NKU tuition low

Northern Kentucky University students overwhelmingly support taking drastic measures to keep tuition low, according to the results of a recent survey by the Student Government Association.

The SGA Tuition Committee reported the results of its university-wide tuition poll to the Senate March 29. Results suggest that students support increasing class size and oppose hiring more full-time faculty and funding the new Student Center if it means paying more tuition than necessary.

Of 500 surveys randomly selected, 75 percent of respondents support increasing class size in order to keep tuition low. 81 percent said they would not be in favor of hiring more full-time faculty at an added expense to students. 80 percent said they would not be in favor of continuing to fund a new student center if it meant increasing tuition.

“These are all tough numbers,” said committee chair Eric Fegan.

He said he is “amazed” at the number of responses to the survey, which was mailed approximately six weeks ago to every student enrolled at NKU. Nearly 1,300 students have returned surveys to the committee, and Fegan said more come in to the SGA office each day.

“We do think it’s given us an excellent start,” Fegan said.

“It shows how many students really care [about tuition],” said Sen. Mike Tobergta, who helped the committee tally the results. He said that nearly 10 percent of the student body has responded, which is significantly larger than the 3 percent voter turnout at the November SGA election.

Tobergta said that non-traditional students have most vehemently protested a significant increase in tuition, because they typically carry the burden of working full-time and raising a family while attending school.

Scholarship students also have, in general, been outspoken about keeping tuition low, according to Tobergta.

“It was interesting to see that scholarship students care about tuition, contrary to popular belief,” he said.

The committee will consider the survey results and meet with administrators in the coming weeks to review the final funding cuts handed down by Frankfort. It will present a tuition resolution to the Senate within the next two weeks, according to Fegan. The resolution, if passed, will be submitted to the Board of Regents for final approval. Fegan said he hopes the board will take the SGA recommendation into consideration. The Board of Regents is expected to make its final decision regarding a tuition hike in May.

“We don’t set policy for the Regents,” Fegan said. “But we can change policy. We’re fighting for the best value and the best deal [for students].”

Fegan and Tobergta said they estimate a tuition increase of 15.5 percent. Nobody in student government or the administration knows for certain what kind of financial hit NKU will take, however.

“We don’t know. There’s always a whole lot of ambiguity,” Fegan said. “But when it’s all said and done, the university will have a pretty general idea [of how much tuition will increase]. And then they can give us that pretty general idea so we, as student leaders, can make some kind of an educated decision.”

Fegan said the survey results and consultations he has had with students seem to reflect campus-wide sentiment against a tuition hike.

“I think that’s something that everybody in student government needs to take into account,” he said. “And I would hope that everyone on the other side of the coin – in the administration and the Board of Regents – will take those same things into account.”

“An argument against this survey that some of the poly-sci crowd has given me – and they’re right – is when you poll everyone, the only people that are gonna respond are the people that care one way or another,” Fegan said. “And I do understand that. But this was our effort to get somewhat of a student opinion.”

Sen. Lindsay Hunter, a political science major who has studied statistical analysis, said the survey should have been conducted with a random sample of 1,000 students, in order to receive a more accurate view of student opinion.

“When you send a survey on an issue, you’re only gonna hear back from people who have very strong feelings about it,” she said. “You want to hear back from the students who don’t care.”

Hunter said a more controlled, organized survey would have yielded more accurate results.

“The questions were fairly loaded, with the way they were worded, on to what the expected result will be,” she said. “You never want a survey with loaded questions.”

Hunter also said the 10 percent turnout was “fairly low,” and that to obtain a more accurate survey of student opinion “you typically want at least 30 percent (to respond.)”

The Tuition Committee is composed of Fegan and Sens. James Pollitt, Josh Ruth, Trey Orndorff and Sheree Davis.

Fegan said it has been working to gather student feedback on tuition since last semester.