Senate and House budget negotiators on Wednesday reached accord to avoid multimillion-dollar cuts to the University of Kansas and Kansas State University and to freeze tuition at all six state regents universities for the next two years.
The lawmakers also agreed on a compromise that would shift individual student aid from public universities to private colleges, but not by as much as the Senate originally planned.
The tuition freeze came as welcome news to members of the KU band, who, coincidentally, were playing a concert in the Capitol Rotunda while the budget meeting was going on.
“Good, good for Kansas!” said Allison Cockshaw, a graduate student and teaching assistant from Boston, when she learned of the tuition freeze.
“I think that’s great,” added Michael Raehpour, a sophomore trumpeter from Andover. “Students shouldn’t have to worry about their tuition going up.”
The agreement would avoid cutting operating funds by about $9.2 million from KU and $4.2 million at K-State over the next two years, according to Breeze Richardson of the Kansas Board of Regents.
The agreement also reaches a compromise on the split of almost $16 million in need-based financial aid for college students.
At present, that Kansas Comprehensive Grant money goes about 50-50 to students at public universities and private institutions.
The Senate initially voted to give about 84 percent of the money to aid students at the private schools.
Wednesday’s agreement sets the percentage at 60 percent for the private schools and 40 percent for public institutions.
All told, 954 students attending public universities in Kansas stand to lose some of that financial aid this fall. Students at Kansas State University would be hit hardest, with a loss of nearly $500,000. University of Kansas students would lose about $344,000.
The shift of financial aid worries Phyllis Wallace, a single mother putting three sons through Emporia State University.
Wallace, an employee of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., has stretched her income to make sure Joshua Wallace, 22, and 20-year-old twins Jawuan and Jashawn Wallace would get through college without borrowing money.
Each of her boys has counted on about $1,000 a year through the grant program.
“A thousand dollars is a lot of money for me to lose,” Joshua Wallace said. “For some people, it could be enough to stop them from continuing school.”
Sen. Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican and chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said he doesn’t expect the overall budget to come to a vote in either chamber before the veto session that begins April 29.
Lawmakers will adjourn the regular session late this week.