- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The governing board of Kansas public universities signed off Wednesday on tuition increases higher than first proposed on many of the campuses following a cut in funding for higher education from the state.

The move by the Kansas Board of Regents in Topeka, Kansas, boosts tuition for the coming school year by as much as 6 percent amid worries that more state cuts may be looming in light of lagging tax collections and nagging budget deficits.

Last month, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback cut higher education spending by 4 percent - one percent more than the state’s universities expected - the same day state universities submitted their tuition proposals to regents.

Many of the campuses responded by pushing their tuition requests upward, ultimately getting the regents’ approval Wednesday. The University of Kansas’ tuition for full-time, in-state undergraduates will go up by 5 percent, one percent higher than the school sought last month. Students at Kansas State University will pay 5.8 percent more, Emporia State 4.9 percent, Pittsburg State 5.5 percent and Fort Hays State by 6 percent. Only the University of Kansas’ medical center and Wichita State did not raise their rate increase requests, sticking with 5 percent.

Tuition increases for full-time, out-of-state undergraduates range from 3.6 percent to 6 percent.

Regents and university administrators said Wednesday the tuition increases would not insulate the schools from the prospect of further belt-tightening or tap into their cash reserves if the state’s revenues continue to lag, prompting the state to again cut university funding. The revenue generated by the higher tuition is a projection because schools often don’t know specifically how many students will enroll each semester, said Breeze Richardson, a regents spokeswoman.

State tax collections have fallen short of expectations in 10 of the past 12 months and 22 of the past 30 months. Tax revenue fell $74.5 million short in May, creating the deficit in the state general fund.

Kansas has struggled to balance its budget since the GOP-dominated Legislature slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s urging in a bid to stimulate the economy. More recently, Brownback’s administration has blamed slumps in agriculture, energy production and aircraft manufacturing for disappointing revenues.

With the state’s current budget year ending on June 30, Kansas is looking at shuffling funds within state government to cover a projected short-term, $45 million deficit, Brownback aide Eileen Hawley said earlier this month.

Wednesday’s action by the regents was expected to produce roughly $36.2 million more in revenue for the universities than last year, the board said. As of Wednesday, Brownback has cut funding for all of the state’s 32 public post-secondary education sites, including junior colleges, by $38.1 million, with $23.6 million affecting Kansas’ universities, the board said.

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