Council on Postsecondary Education
COUNCIL TO SCRUTINIZE TUITION PROPOSALS
(FRANKFORT, Ky.)--Brad Cowgill, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, today said that because of changes in the economy that are hurting Kentucky families and putting college loans at risk, a strong consensus has emerged among Council members that favors a conservative approach to tuition growth in order to maintain college affordability and progress toward the state’s Double the Numbers goal.
The Council is charged by law with responsibility for establishing tuition rates at Kentucky’s nine public institutions, including the eight public universities and the community college system.
Cowgill declined to predict any specific tuition rates to be recommended by the staff, stating that the recommendations would await review of the detailed information to be provided by the institutions in tuition proposals due at the Council on Friday, April 25. He emphasized that the legal authority to establish tuition rates is vested in the Council members, not the Council staff.
Cowgill said his announcement is intended to give encouragement to students and families when they are making plans for the fall semester and may be concerned about recent tuition forecasts and problems in the student loan market.
Saying that he does not anticipate that the Council will pursue a “one size fits all” approach to tuition rate increases, Cowgill said he has encouraged the institutions to outline their plans for providing need-based institutional aid as a part of their tuition proposals.
Open hearings on the tuition proposals will be held on April 30 and May 1 at the Council offices in Frankfort. Public comment is welcome.
Cowgill said the General Assembly strained the state’s budget at every turn to minimize cuts and provide a major portion of the limited new revenue to postsecondary education.
“This is a time of fiscal constraint all across the state, in both the public and private sectors,” Cowgill said. “The Council will be working with the institutions to manage costs, improve quality and maintain affordability.
“We have six budget periods between now and 2020, which is like trying to get from one goal line to the other in six plays,” Cowgill said. “To achieve the 2020 goals for higher education outlined in House Bill 1, the state must find ways of gaining ground on every play, even when the amount of state appropriations is disappointing.”
Cowgill stated that Kentucky’s postsecondary education system has increased undergraduate tuition rates at the average rate of approximately 10 percent per year for the past 10 consecutive years, a rate about three times greater than the rate of inflation. Currently, tuition generates more than $1 billion per year, an amount roughly equal to general fund appropriations.
“There are no villains in this story,” Cowgill said. “Tuition has increased in recent years partly because General Fund support has not kept pace with postsecondary education costs, but the rates of increase we have seen in recent years are not sustainable and the Council is prepared to recognize that fact.”
“In the discharge of its responsibility,” Cowgill said, “the Council must take stock of taxpayer support in the budget and establish tuition rates which will best maintain college affordability and advance the state’s goals, including our Double the Numbers goal for college graduates.”
He expressed particular concern for tuition at the community colleges, stating that tuition at KCTCS increased 151 percent over the last 10 years (from $1,375 in FY98 to $3,450 in FY08). At $3,450 per year for a full time, in-state student, KCTCS tuition is currently $713 (26 percent) higher than the national average for community colleges. In the last four years, the rate of increase in tuition at KCTCS has been among the highest in the nation for community colleges.
Cowgill said that the 13 percent tuition proposal of KCTCS was “clearly excessive” and suggested that the Council members may attempt to find a rate which would better advance the state’s goals for the community college students.
Cowgill expressed concern that excessive tuition rates may very well block access to college education and contribute to unacceptable dropout rates. “Our annual accountability report showed progress in every aspect of postsecondary education’s public agenda except affordability, where we are clearly losing ground,” Cowgill said.
Cowgill would offer no specific predictions as to the rates that the Council members will approve, stating that the Council members intend to listen carefully to the evidence presented from the institutions and the staff and to resolve the matter judiciously.
Kentucky is in the middle of the most dramatic economic and social transformation in its history. Double the Numbers: Kentucky’s Plan to Increase College Graduates explains that increasing bachelor’s degrees is the quickest, most direct way for Kentucky to increase its economic prosperity. College graduates earn more, are healthier, create a more robust economy, and enjoy a higher quality of life. The Double the Numbers plan outlines five statewide strategies for Kentucky to achieve this ambitious, but achievable goal. While this effort will not be easy, the benefits of Doubling the Numbers will be felt by all Kentuckians.