By Rachel Gramer, with Mary P. Sheridan
According to recent reports in higher education funding (see previous report on The State of Funding in Kentucky), Kentucky had the 5thhighest hike in tuition rates overall last year and was among the top 5 states with the highest cuts in state funding (and one that has also cut funding for consecutive years).
This is especially troubling news for two-year colleges, as Joe Sonka noted in anInsider Louisvillearticle earlier this year:
“Since the beginning of the recession, Kentucky has cut higher education spending by 28 percent, or roughly $3,000 per student, which has led to a 28.1 percent increase in tuition over that time. Additionally, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System had the highest median annual tuition and fees for community colleges in the Southern Regional Board states in 2011-2012, and the 11th highest in the following year.” (Sonka, 2015)
Although theKentucky Community and Technical College Systemdid freeze their tuition hike for AY2015-16 (Katayama, 2015), the high cost of two-year college tuition is compounded by the fact that two-year colleges receive less public funding than their four-year counterparts (seeSmith, 2015for the results of a recent Century Foundation report on this national trend). High tuition rates and inequitable state aid might also be contributing to a worrying trend that places Kentucky among the three highest states for student loan default rates (based on recent statistics released from the U.S. Department of Education; see Ryan, 2015).
Though two-year college funding is not currently on Kentucky’s legislative docket, postsecondary educators and state politicians should strongly consider the Century Foundation’s warning regarding inequality and inefficiencies in the current system of two-year college funding and the call for alternative structures of funding based on student needs (seeKahlenlenberg, 2015). Educators and administrators in Kentucky’s two-year colleges might also consider steps taken in nearby Tennessee, which is currently dominating conversations about two-year colleges and funding. We might ask:
- What strategies at work in Tennessee might we adopt and adapt to benefit students in two-year colleges in Kentucky?
- What inefficiencies, similar to those reported by the Century Foundation, are present in the current system of two-year college funding at your institution?
- What alternative structures of funding based on student needs might work best for students in your individual institution?
- How might you communicate this to stakeholders and decision-makers in the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, to support their push to advocate for increases in state funding for higher education? (seeHolloway, 2015)
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