By Rachel Gramer, with Dr. Mary P. Sheridan
Conversations about changes in 2016-17 state budgets are making headlines, evidenced here in NCTE Policy Analyst posts about increases (in California and Connecticut) and deep cuts (in Wyoming). In Kentucky, higher education funding is no less newsworthy, especially since our state government swore in its new governor, Matt Bevin, in December 2015.
This fiscal year, higher education faces an additional 4.5 percent cut in state funding (Blackford), after multiple years of funding cuts or plateaued budgets even in light of increased enrollment (see “The State of Funding in Kentucky” report from February 2015). The budget will also be cut an additional 9 percent over the next two years. Potential immediate consequences include the likelihood for increased tuition, especially for two-year colleges in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) (see “Kentucky Two-Year College Funding”), but also the restoration of Kentucky Lottery proceeds to educational funds that were previously often diverted (see Blackford).
Further, Bevin has declared a goal of restructuring how state colleges and universities are funded, after fiscal year 2018. He plans to propose an outcomes-based funding model in which colleges and universities will receive state aid only if they meet certain outcomes (see Blackford, Williams).
While these outcomes currently remain unidentified, it is clear that Bevins wants higher education to produce workers better prepared for high-need jobs, presumably as identified by government and businesses in the Commonwealth. Recently, Bevins spoke about incentives that are more related to specific disciplines: “There will be more incentives to electrical engineers than French literature majors, there just will. All the people in the world who want to study French literature can do so, they’re just not going to be subsidized by the taxpayers like engineers will be, for example” (qtd. in Blackford). Talking not about outcomes, but about specific majors sparked further debate in local media (Jaffe) and was also part of earlier campaign discussions (Gerth).
The first step toward action is to be informed about the details of the governor’s proposed cuts and restructuring (see the links below). The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education meets again on April 26, and you can follow this link to see past and future meeting dates and materials.
We hope to continue to share further details and developments as the issue of higher education funding continues to shift in Kentucky.