Tuition increase is ‘committment to sustain value’

Dear NKU Students,

As the semester winds down, I want to take a few minutes to discuss with you the tuition package that I will recommend to the Northern Kentucky University Board of Regents next month.

The package, which includes a $312-per-semester increase for Kentucky undergraduates, is a reflection of NKU’s commitment to sustain the value of the NKU academic experience in light of historic under-funding, enrollment growth, and recent budget reductions.

Value has always been a hallmark of NKU. Professor Russ Proctor likes to say that NKU offers a private school education at a public school cost. What that boils down to is value. Value is, in the simplest terms, what you pay measured against what you get.

At NKU, even with this proposed tuition increase, students will be paying less than those at most other colleges and universities in Kentucky and in the tri-state. And you will be getting more…More opportunity to study in small classes with faculty who are committed to your success…More access to academic programs that are in high demand throughout our region and nationally…More financial, advising, and program support to ensure your success both at NKU and beyond…And more value associated with your degree as the university continues to grow in excellence and reputation.

The way that many universities have addressed similar financial challenges is to double and triple class sizes, rely more heavily on part-time faculty, and reduce programs and services designed to support student success.

Our students have said to me that, while they don’t like tuition increases, they want NKU’s “up-close and personal” approach to education to be protected, even if it means that tuition must increase. I don’t enjoy proposing tuition increases, but my greater nightmare is that we allow academic quality to be compromised, which means that students leave here less prepared to advance their careers and their lives.

The challenge that NKU now faces is to balance affordability on the one hand with academic quality and program availability on the other. I believe that the proposed tuition package does just that. Along with an increase in need-based financial aid, it sustains affordability while assuring access to high-quality academic programs that are in demand by both our students and our community.

I’m sometimes asked whether the university has done all that it can to reduce costs and increase efficiency so that tuition can be kept as low as possible. My answer is: yes.

By any measure, NKU is the most under-funded university in the commonwealth. Over the past three years, we have had our state budget reduced by nearly nine percent.

We are a lean and efficient institution. In spite of this fact, over the past year, we’ve cut an additional six percent from our operating budget in order to minimize the amount that tuition would have to be raised. On our campus, raising tuition will always be a last resort.

The budget that I’ll propose to the Board of Regents is not the product of a set of aspirations the university came up with on its own. We’ve heard the message loud and clear from our students and our community – don’t let the momentum stall. Don’t let academic quality suffer. NKU is an outstanding institution. Our graduates are held in high regard throughout the region and beyond. We play an indispensable role in the lives of our students and our community. We cannot, and we will not, allow that role to diminish.

Governor Ernie Fletcher has acknowledged NKU’s historic under-funding and has pledged to correct it. Our northern Kentucky legislative caucus has made the same pledge. However, as I write this letter to you, the General Assembly has still not passed a budget and we confront uncertain financial times.

My pledge to you is that we will do everything within our power to protect both academic quality and affordability while ensuring that NKU continues to develop in a way that supports the needs of our students and our community.

Faced with a very challenging financial picture, the budget that I’ll propose to the Board of Regents is my best effort to make good on this pledge.

I wish you much success with your upcoming final exams and I hope that you have a productive and satisfying summer.

Best Wishes, James C. Votruba President