A proposed tuition increase of 5 to 7 percent likely will be on the horizon at Pittsburg State University as administrators continue to wrestle with the funding gap created by Kansas’ budget shortfall.

On Thursday afternoon, President Steve Scott conducted a budget forum — the third this year — to update campus personnel on the financial outlook for the university and to outline tentative budget priorities for next year.

His message was one of optimism coupled with caution, because no one yet has a full picture of what to expect in terms of further cuts to the fiscal 2010 budget, or what to expect for fiscal 2011. The state fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

“I continue to be optimistic about the challenges ahead of us,” Scott said, echoing sentiments he expressed at previous forums. At the same time, he compared the situation to a doctor’s visit in which a patient won’t immediately know the results of lab tests. “There’s just not a definite answer yet.”

Since last May, the university’s budget has been cut 13 percent, or $4.7 million. Scott said “careful positioning” has helped PSU remain in what he called “a solid financial position,” but he added, “I am very, very concerned about deeper cuts.”

Last Friday, the state’s Consensus Estimating Group predicted a budget shortfall for fiscal 2011 of more than $500 million, and lawmakers now are building a budget around that number. The big question is whether there will be drastic additional cuts or increased revenue via tax hikes.

“So we ask, ‘What are the options?’” said Scott. He said the Legislature faces two choices when it reconvenes next Wednesday: cut funding or raise taxes.

One of the university’s saving graces is federal legislation that does not allow schools to be funded below their level in 2006, or they risk losing any remaining stimulus funding.

Scott shared tentative details of a preliminary $1.5 million budget priority package for fiscal 2011 that includes $500,000 for a 12.5 percent general health insurance increase (employer’s premium); an increase of $360,000 for unclassified employees; about $70,000 for building insurance; $60,000 for a classified employee pay plan increase; $156,000 for classified employee longevity funding; $75,000 for faculty promotions; an unemployment insurance increase of about $75,000; and $272,000 in “strategic initiatives.”

“And in the midst of all this, we’re trying to think about generating new revenue to better position the university for the future,” Scott said.

That new revenue likely will come in the form of a proposed tuition increase that Scott estimated will be between 5 and 7 percent. Administrators will present the proposal to the Kansas Board of Regents later this month or in early May.

Scott said each 1 percent increase in tuition yields about $272,000, meaning a 5 percent increase could create $1.36 million in new revenue.

The president encouraged those present to participate in the steps.

“Pay attention to the news, read about what’s going on, and communicate with your legislators,” he said. “Other ways you can help are to continue to try to attract new students to the university, help students be successful, look for new opportunities, and communicate your ideas to us.”

He is using the budget page on his Web site to post the latest statewide news stories on the state budget and work in the Legislature. It can be accessed at www.pittstate.edu/office/president/budget.

Current tuition

Full-time resident and Gorilla Advantage (bordering counties) undergraduate students paid $2,296 per semester in tuition and fees this year. Nonresident undergraduates paid $6,558 per semester in tuition and fees this year.

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