Eastern Kentucky University's tuition is rising and so are some tempers.
Many EKU students learned Thursday the university's board of regents approved a tuition increase for resident undergraduate students for 2016-17.
Students interviewed by The Register Thursday afternoon expressed their frustration of facing a higher price tag for college than originally expected.
"I don't like it," Ethan Bean, an EKU construction major, said of the tuition increase. "It will probably affect my financial aid and now I will have to figure out how to pay what it can't cover."
Regents approved a tuition increase Wednesday of 5 percent for resident undergraduate students for 2016-17, slightly under the cap of 5.3 percent set by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. The increase amounts to an additional $418 per student per year.
The board also approved an increase in residence hall costs of 3.8 to 5.4 percent, varying from hall to hall.
"I feel they shouldn't be putting the financial burden of the university on the backs of students," Kele Morgan, an EKU applied engineering major, said. "We won't see any benefit to the projects they have going on now, but we are expected to help pay for them."
Morgan and other students say, while they understand the need for the revitalization efforts on campus, a tuition increase on top of other student fees is getting out-of-hand.
According to one EKU student who will graduate next year, the cost of tuition has risen nearly every year the student has attended the university.
"I'm just trying to get out of here as fast as I can before I end up in so much debt I won't be able to afford a stick of gum when I graduate," said Hollis Gavendry. "It's such a shame too, because I really wanted to enjoy college like my dad did. He was in so many clubs and a fraternity. He has so many great memories, unfortunately, I had to work part-time to cover my books and part of my tuition so I missed out on a lot because I was worried about paying bills."
Morgan said he thinks current students are getting a raw deal.
According to the sophomore, not only are students charged a $150 fee per semester for a proposed student center, freshmen are required to purchase a meal plan, while many freshmen and sophomores are required to stay in campus housing.
"We aren't even going to utilize what we are being charged for," Morgan said. "The construction is also causing a parking nightmare on campus. You can't even park at the rec because it is commuter parking. So I get a ticket if I want to go to the gym. They closed off some of the other parking lots, so we can't use them."
Bean said he pays the university $2,000 a semester to stay in a residence hall, which he is required to do, but has already located an off-campus apartment that will only cost him $5,000 for a full year.
"It's kind of ridiculous isn't it," the sophomore said.
Alex Elliott said she doesn't understand why she has to pay for a parking pass that is almost useless.
"Most of the lots I use are pay lots, because there are no spaces. We have too many people on campus with cars, but I get it, we have to have a car to get around. We aren't getting what we are paying for," the junior creative writing major said.
For students like Morgan and Gavendry who work part-time to supplement their educations, a tuition increase means they are forced to rely on loans to complete their degrees.
"It just means I have to take out more loans," Morgan said. "Hopefully, I can qualify for it on my own."
While the students begrudge the tuition hike, many say they still enjoy their time at the university and the faculty that have taught them.
"It makes sense why they had to do it," Rebecca Baldridge said. "It's unfortunate, but it could be worse. I still love being here and I like the university."
Morgan said despite the recent financial woes, he is glad he chose to pursue an education at Eastern.
"It's a great campus," Morgan said. "It's only going to get better, it is still big enough that you don't know everyone here but small enough that it isn't overwhelming."
Gavendry said he appreciated the quality of the faculty EKU has hired to teach.
"A lot of my professors have been very interesting and highly qualified people in their own right that have done amazing things," the junior said. "Some have become mentors to me and taken a personal interest in my goals. You don't get that everywhere and I think that is what makes EKU special."
Some students wanted to make it clear their frustration does not lie with the board of regents.
"Come on, we all know why this is happening," Elliott said. "The higher-ups in Frankfort don't care about higher education. The university has to do what it can to survive. My fight is not with President (Michael) Benson or the regents, basically we are all getting the short-end-of-stick on this one."
EKU is facing a 4.5 percent ($3.1 million) cut in state appropriations each of the next two years, plus a $2.7 million increase in retirement costs, a $1.5 million increase in fixed and unavoidable costs, and unknown budgetary implications relative to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
Given expected enrollment levels, the tuition increase is expected to produce approximately $3.7 million in revenue for the University.