BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Tuition at Western Kentucky University will remain unchanged for the 2020-21 academic year.
WKU Regents Wednesday approved the tuition schedule, which must now be approved by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. The last time tuition was held flat was 1979-80.
The board also waived the distance learning surcharge fee—$150 per credit hour for full-time students engaged in an online course—for one year and lowered the cost of graduate courses for Kentucky teachers.
“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has had profound negative effects on the financial situation of many of our students and their families, WKU President Timothy C. Caboni said. “The decision to not increase tuition and eliminate a substantial student fee is one way that we can both ease the burden on our students and their families while together we navigate this unprecedented situation.”
The board considered two tuition proposals: no increase and a 2 percent increase, which would have added $100 per semester to in-state undergraduate tuition and produced an estimated $2.4 million in additional tuition revenue.
“What we are balancing here are the needs of our students and their families and the needs of the institution,” Caboni said. “On one side, given the economic context in which we are working, a tuition increase is difficult. On the other side, a 2 percent tuition increase is moderate. Our net tuition is much lower than other institutions in the state and the foregone revenue is not $2.4 million, but is almost $11 million over time.”
Caboni said the decision to not raise tuition aligns with the university’s primary goals of retaining students from spring to fall and keeping one of largest freshman recruiting classes in 20 years coming to campus. “We need to get every one of them here,” he said. “That’s in their best interest, and in the best interest of the institution.”
Student Regent Will Harris of Glasgow said the action shows that the university stands for family and community. “This is what WKU does when students are in a difficult situation,” he said.
The one-year waiver of the distance learning fee will result in a revenue reduction of $4.15 million. President Caboni said that while it is more costly to develop, distribute and support online courses, it is also not fair for students to be compelled to pay more when courses are forced online due to pandemic pressures on class sizes and social distancing.
The board also reduced tuition for Kentucky teachers taking graduate courses required for continuing education. The Kentucky Educator Graduate Tuition discount rate will be lowered from $415 per credit hour to $350, making it the third lowest among peer institutions. The special tuition is available to all Kentucky residents who hold a current Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board educator certificate.
Dr. Corinne Murphy, WKU’s Dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, said the discount rate can now be applied to students taking individual classes and not just limited to those enrolled in degree programs. She said more students are already enrolling, which will offset revenue lost with the lower rate.
Tuition and fees will be sent to CPE on Thursday to be considered at its meeting June 19. WKU Regents will reconvene in a special session June 26 to approve the 2020-21 budget.