Kentucky State Capitol Building

An annual report by a Washington, D.C.-based progressive think tank shows that Kentucky’s per-student cuts to higher education spending since the Great Recession still rank among the 10 highest in the country, while tuition at its four-year public during this time period has increased by nearly 37 percent.

The new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that since 2008, Kentucky’s per-student higher education appropriations from state government have decreased by 26.4 percent, when accounting for inflation. This decline is much higher than the 16 percent average nationally, while the total amount cut per student in Kentucky — $2,832 — is nearly double the average of all states.

Via Center for Budget and Policy Priorities

Though most states have reversed this trend and begun to increase per-student higher education spending in recent years, Kentucky was one of just 13 states to continue such per-student cuts into the last academic year.

While the average state increased per-student spending in 2017 from the previous year by 2.2 percent, or $170, Kentucky decreased its spending by 1 percent, or $78 per student.

The CBBP report shows that while all but five states have decreased per-student higher education spending since 2008, the average annual tuition at four-year public colleges and universities has increased in every single state, with average tuition increasing by $2,484, or 35 percent.

Over that same time, the tuition at such colleges in Kentucky has increased by $2,684, or 36.9 percent — slightly above the national average.

For the first time in 15 years, in-state tuition at the University of Louisville will not increase in the academic year that just began, totaling $11,068. UofL was the only public college or university in Kentucky to freeze tuition this year.

However, the tuition rate at UofL this year is $4,198 higher than it was in the 2007-2008 academic year — a 60 percent increase — and is more than quadruple from 20 years ago.

The chairman of the UofL board of trustees recently stated he would like to see UofL freeze tuition for several more years, following the model of Purdue University. However, such a freeze would be challenging considering the decreased ability of the troubled UofL Foundation to kick in a greater sum of financial support for academic programs, and the possibility of having to cut back or freeze the salaries of faculty and staff due to a decrease in tuition revenue.

The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy — a local progressive think tank affiliated with CBPP — issues a press release citing the report as another reason why legislators in the Kentucky General Assembly should change the tax code to end billions of dollars in tax breaks that drain the state budget.

“With another budget session upcoming in January, it’s time for lawmakers to make the decision to close tax loopholes that benefit only the wealthy and corporations so we can re-invest that revenue into our communities and our future,” stated Kenny Colston, the spokesman of KCEP.

Though Gov. Matt Bevin indicated earlier this year he would call a special session of the General Assembly to pass a tax reform bill that was not revenue neutral, he recently suggested that a special session may only tackle the state’s woefully underfunded public pension system, pledging he would not increase taxes.

Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]


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