The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees on Tuesday approved a 6 percent tuition increase for in-state undergraduates for 2010-11.
The jump means freshmen and sophomore students will pay $243.50 more per semester, juniors and seniors will shell out $250.50 more and graduate students must pay $264 more.
The vote was nearly unanimous, with only one dissenting vote.
Dr. Charles Sachatello said he was casting a symbolic vote against the increase, which he said he has done before and will do again to protest the state's lack of funding for its public universities.
"I'm trying to send a message to the absentee leadership in Frankfort," Sachatello said. "If they want to close universities, let us vote to close universities. ... They have an obligation to provide funding for these universities."
Despite the tuition increases, UK president Lee T. Todd Jr. said UK will have to cut $7.5 million from its proposed budget for next year, which includes $16 million in increases for student financial aid, implementing a new general education curriculum and paying for increased utility bills and other fixed costs. The university's general fund is about $577 million.
Meanwhile, state support — $310 million this year — is expected to decline by about $4.4 million, although lawmakers still haven't approved a state budget for next year.
"It isn't as if we haven't had to make cuts before," Todd said, adding that he was not looking forward to going through the process again.
"We haven't had furloughs, we haven't had layoffs, and we haven't really had a hiring freeze," Todd said.
He said he would like to give the university's lowest-paid employees a raise of some kind — perhaps a one-time payment or permanent salary adjustment — but is not sure how to pay for it.
Todd said UK remains affordable when compared with the nation's top 20 institutions, cheaper than universities such as Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh, University of Michigan and University of Minnesota.
Student board member Ryan Smith said the tuition increase is a compromise between conscientious budgeting and maintaining the prestige of the university.
With additional budget cuts, he said, students might have to wait longer to get all necessary classes for a particular degree, and he reasons that a few hundred dollars in additional tuition is cheaper than an extra semester of college.
"There is a balance between an increase in tuition and affordability and a degree that has significance," Smith said.
The Council on Postsecondary Education on Friday approved a 6 percent increase ceiling for UK and the University of Louisville, 5 percent for the comprehensive universities such as Eastern Kentucky University and Morehead State University, and 4 percent for the community and technical colleges.
Tuition rates aren't the only costs increasing for UK students. Housing will increase by 4 percent, and the minimum plan for dining will go up 3 percent.
Faculty trustee Ernie Yanarella said the board had to balance rising tuition with concern for Kentucky families who are trying to provide higher education for their children during a severe recession: "Kentucky is a poor state, and these increases have had to be borne by families since 2001."
Last year the higher education council set tuition increase ceilings of 5 percent for UK and U of L, 4 percent for the comprehensive universities and 3 percent for the community and technical colleges.