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KY Among States with Biggest Cuts to Higher Ed Funding

A new report shows Kentucky has had the sixth-largest decrease in state funding for higher education since 2008. (KCTCS)
A new report shows Kentucky has had the sixth-largest decrease in state funding for higher education since 2008. (KCTCS)
May 20, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Funding cuts to higher education have driven up tuition, making college less affordable and less accessible for many students, according to a new national report. With inflation factored in, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says, Kentucky is spending 32 percent less on higher education than it did when the recession hit in 2008.

The nationwide average is 17 percent less. Report author Michael Mitchell said almost every state now is trying to reinvest in college --- while, in his words, Kentucky is "going backwards and digging its hole deeper."

"Unfortunately for students, when it comes to tuition, when it comes to quality of schools," he said, "it puts in question whether or not those things will be be there - affordability and quality - moving forward."

The report showed that 37 states increased college funding over last year, and said Kentucky is one of only three states to make cuts the last two years. Gov. Matt Bevin has cut university budgets 2 percent late in the current fiscal year, and the state's new budget year, which begins July 1, will bring another 4.5 percent cut.

To reverse the trend, said Ashley Spalding, a research and policy analyst at the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, the state needs to clean up its tax code and end some of its tax breaks "to free up more funds, to enable greater investment in areas like higher education."

When adjusted for inflation, the report said, tuition has increased by about one-third at Kentucky universities since 2008. Spalding noted that's in line with the national average - but with an important caveat.

"That doesn't mean it's affordable. We're a poor state and our students can't afford continued tuition increases. We have a lot of low-income Kentuckians without college degrees. Affordability should be considered in that context."

She added that the size of student debt in Kentucky rose 63 percent from 2008 to 2014.

Students also have been affected by larger class sizes as well as elimination of faculty positions and course offerings, Mitchell said.

"These are all things that can make navigating the college experience more complicated for students, can threaten educational quality and, ultimately, impact how many kids graduate," Mitchell said.

The report is online at cbpp.org.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY