May 26, 2022

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Students who buy health insurance through KU to see big increase; Regents to consider English standards for faculty, other issues | News, Sports, Jobs


photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus is pictured in September 2021.

All KU students who need health insurance through the university’s system are likely to pay more next year, but some students are set to see a nearly 30% hike in their rates.

The Kansas Board of Regents at its Wednesday meeting is being asked to approve new insurance rates for students and to endorse the concept that some students should see much larger increases than others.

The board’s Student Insurance Advisory Committee is recommending that health science students who are required to have insurance, international students who are required to have insurance, and graduate students who work a certain number of hours for the university see a 7.9% increase in insurance rates.

But all other students would see a 29.4% rate increase, under the proposal, bringing their insurance premium to nearly $5,000 for coverage during the fall and spring semesters.

The proposed rates aren’t just for University of Kansas students, but rather for any student at a Board of Regents school — Kansas State, Emporia State, Fort Hays State, Pittsburg State and Wichita State — that needs coverage under the MHECare program offered by the universities.

“It was a really difficult decision, and it wasn’t unanimous by all the schools,” said Hollie Hall, the graduate student body president on KU’s Student Senate, and a member of the Student Insurance Advisory Committee. “Some schools wanted to do a blanket increase for everybody.”

An across-the-board increase would have resulted in a 13% rate increase for everybody. Hull, who is an international student from England, said there was concern such an increase could make KU and other schools unaffordable for international students.

Under a Kansas Board of Regents policy, international students are essentially required to enroll in the health plan offered by the universities. Hall, a doctoral student who has been at KU for nearly 10 years, said she used to pay $600 a semester for the university insurance plan. Under the new proposal, Hall will pay a little more than $1,300 a semester, and the increase would have been greater with an across-the-board increase.

Under the plan up for approval on Wednesday, international students, graduate student employees and health science students will pay $2,658 for single coverage for the academic year, which does not include the summer semester. That’s an increase of $196 over current rates. Spouses or dependents can be added for an additional $2,658. Graduate students who work a certain number of hours for the university also are eligible for the school to pay 75% of their premium.

All other students will pay $4,998 for the academic year. That’s an increase of $1,137 compared with current rates. Those students, however, are considered voluntary participants of the plan because it is likely that they have other health insurance options, either through parents, the Affordable Care Act or other offerings.

But if a student doesn’t happen to have such an option, Hall said the increase would be difficult.

“The biggest issue with all of this is how unaffordable it is becoming,” Hall said.

The Board of Regents will consider the insurance proposal as part of its meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in Topeka.

In other business, the board will:

• Give final approval to rate increases for student housing and dining plans at KU and other Regents universities. As reported last month, the board gave preliminary approval for KU to raise its combined housing and dining plan rates by 2.5% to 3% next school year, depending on the particular dormitory and meal plan a student chooses.

KU leaders have said inflation — especially on food items — and a growing amount of deferred maintenance on student housing buildings necessitated the increased rates.

Regents, however, may hear some objection from KU student leaders. KU’s Student Senate recently approved a new constitution that, among other items, gives the Student Senate a greater role in communicating to the Board of Regents on matters related to student housing and dining rates.

Student Body President Niya Denise McAdoo said senators were concerned students didn’t have enough voice in the process related to student dining and housing fees. McAdoo said she hoped a more active Student Senate would lead to the university providing more detailed explanations about why increases in fees were needed. McAdoo said increased fees for deferred maintenance could be justified, but she said senators wanted to ensure fees weren’t increasing to pay for growing debt in KU’s student housing department.

“I think it is unfair to raise housing rates for students to make up for fiscal irresponsibility on their part,” McAdoo said.

• Consider a change in policy related to how faculty members and graduate teaching assistants must demonstrate that they can proficiently speak English. Regents universities have long had a requirement that faculty and other instructors meet certain standards for speaking English. However, the policy has not included many specifics on what those standards should be.

Under the proposed changes, the policy sets minimum scores faculty members must achieve on certain tests. Those include a minimum score of 50 points on the Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit; a minimum score of 22 points on the Test of English as a Foreign Language internet Based Test; and a minimum score of 7 on the International English Language Testing System.

• Will formalize changes the board temporarily made to admission standards during the pandemic. Among the changes are that KU would guarantee admission to any student with a high school GPA of 3.25, regardless of any score on the ACT or SAT tests. Students would not be required to take either of those tests, if their grade point average meets the new standards.