April 24, 2012 — “Amen, sister.”
That’s our response to former Lexington mayor Pam Miller, now chair of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), who said Friday that continuing tuition increases are turning the state’s public universities into private schools because of higher costs.
Miller’s comments followed the CPE’s approval of maximum tuition increases in the 2012-13 school year of six percent for UK and UofL, five percent for Morehead State and other regional institutions and four percent for the community and technical colleges.
Yearly tuition hikes have become necessary since the Kentucky General Assembly began regularly reducing state support of public higher education in 2006.
In the ensuing six years, the legislature has cut higher education appropriations by $105 million with another $62 million coming out of the new, two-year state budget.
What this means is that the state is on track to completely reverse the ratio of student support to state support for Kentucky's public universities and colleges.
In 1999, students at public institutions paid 33 percent of college costs and the state paid 67 percent.
When the new fiscal starts July 1, the CPE says students and their families will be paying an average of 61 percent of the bill while the state pays 39 percent.
And it could get even worse in the years ahead. Based on current trends, student tuition would be 73 percent of the costs by 2021 with the state’s share dropping to 27 percent.
Locally, it appears tuition rates for the 2012-13 school year could go up at least $300 per year for full-time, in-state students at MSU and $120 for full-time Kentucky students at the Rowan Campus of Maysville Community and Technical College.
We believe these recurring tuition increases at all institutions represent a hidden tax on public college students and their families.
When tax revenue is insufficient, public agencies and institutions are forced to find other means to generate their funding. In higher education, that alternative is higher tuition rates.
Miller described the ongoing combination of state budget cuts and tuition increases as an “emerging crisis” for institutions and those they serve.
She used the private college analogy to make the point that each year our state is pricing more students out of public higher education.
Yes, we’re a long way from the more than $30,000 yearly charged by some of our elite private colleges.
But, in our opinion, making a public college too expensive for even one qualified student is wrong.