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NKU passes budget, with higher tuition and student fees

Zack Carreon

Northern Kentucky University's Board of Regents has approved its operating budget for the next fiscal year.

The university has been working to reduce its budget deficit over the past few years, which reached more than $18 million at one point in 2022.

NKU says its 2024-25 fiscal year budget is balanced and puts the university in a stable financial position. Revenues for the year are forecasted to reach more than $274 million and expenses are expected to total a little over $279 million. The university is using $4.8 million from its financial reserves to close the financial gap.

RELATED: To boost enrollment, Northern Kentucky University adds 6 new sports

The budget comes with some extra expenses for students. Tuition will rise by nearly $100 a semester when students return to campus in the fall; and they'll pay higher fees for housing and dining plans.

In 2023, to help chip away at its deficit, NKU raised its tuition by 3% and will raise it again by 2% this year. In Kentucky, four-year universities can't raise undergraduate tuition by more than 5% in two years, or raise more than 3% a year.

NKU undergraduate students will now pay $5,352 a semester.

Tuition is one of the university's largest sources of revenue and it's taken steps recently to increase that revenue by growing its student body.

This year alone, the school added six new sports to NKU's athletic lineup and announced every high school student in the area with a 2.75 GPA or higher would automatically be admitted without needing to apply. These changes are expected to boost the enrollment of tuition-paying students.

The tuition increase won't bring new services for students. Regent Vice Chair Nathan Smith says there's no way to frame the financial hike as anything but a necessary move to improve the college's fiscal health.

"Cut it any way you want to. I mean, I don't lie to myself. I know what a fee is. This is a fee because we need to raise a fee. And that's a fact," Smith told his fellow regents.

RELATED: NKU to automatically admit area students with a 2.75 GPA or higher

Not included in the budget are wage and salary increases for employees.

Before approving the plan, regents raised concerns about being able to maintain staff without boosting their pay. In response, President Cady Short-Thompson told the Board they'd need to find other ways to provide employees with extra benefits and incentives to keep them from seeking jobs elsewhere.

"For example, the rec center and access to it without [a] fee is a possibility as we go forward. We've talked about a few other benefits and whether those can be enriched," Short-Thompson said. "We want to be competitive, we want to be a good place to work, and there are a lot of factors that go into that."

NKU's fall semester begins Aug. 19.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.