According to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Kentucky has cut its higher education spending per student more than any other state in the country, which has corresponded with one of the highest tuition increases in the country.
While most states have begun restoring higher education spending as the economy has recovers from the Great Recession, Kentucky slashed per-student funding by $179 this year, a 2.3 percent cut that is the highest in the country. Kentucky is one of only three states that has continued to cut higher education spending over the last two years.
Such cuts have coincided with some of the most dramatic tuition increases in the country. Tuition increased by $344 per student last year in Kentucky — a 3.9 percent hike — which ranks as the fifth-highest increase in the country.
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.
Kenny Colston, communications director for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, says that if Kentucky lawmakers continue to cut higher education spending, it will damage the state’s economic growth and its ability to attract businesses that desire a well-educated workforce.
“Smart investments in public colleges and universities will help strengthen our economy,” Colston says. “Sadly, our elected leaders are still failing to make those smart investments, threatening the state’s well-being, overburdening students and holding everyone back. It’s time Kentucky paid for education again, like a state slogan used to say.”
Last fall, the same economic policy think tank released a report showing that Kentucky has also cut its K-12 education funding drastically since the onset of the 2008 recession, amounting to 11.4 percent and $561 per student, the 11th largest cut in the country.
Colston says Kentucky lawmakers need to focus on tax policies that would raise additional revenues for education, instead of giving tax breaks to special interests and corporations that deplete the state budget.
Over the past decade, many Frankfort Democrats have been reluctant to support tax reform legislation that increases taxes due to the political consequences, while most Republicans say they will only support tax reform if it is “revenue neutral” — meaning there would not be any additional money to spend on education or other priorities.