Local students taking Kentucky Community and Technical College courses in Whitesburg, Hazard and Cumberland may soon see tuition increases of up to $7 per credit hour.
Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, with campuses in Whitesburg and Cumberland, and Hazard Community and Technical College are among 16 institutions in the KCTC system that were given permission by state regulators Tuesday to increase tuition fees.
Regulators also approved maxi- mum tuition increases of about $500 a year for students at Kentucky’s colleges and universities.
The increases come after an intense legislative session during which lawmakers approved Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s spending cuts on colleges and universities by more than $40 million. Much of the debate in the state legislature focused on how the cuts would impact tuition for the upcoming school year.
But the council only attributed a portion of the increases to Bevin’s budget cuts. In addition to the $40 million in cuts, the council says colleges and universities will have to pay an extra $85 million in retirement benefits, student financial aid and increased expenses such as health insurance and maintenance.
The tuition increases will make up about $61 million of that deficit, leaving a nearly $65 million shortfall. Even if the legislature had not approved Bevin’s cuts, council President Bob King said colleges and universities still would likely have had to raise tuition.
“It’s not just the cuts. It’s all these other things that the campuses have to pay for,” King said. “These places are expensive to run.”
The increases are not mandatory. Each institution’s board of trustees must decide whether to raise tuition for the upcoming school year. But they cannot raise tuition beyond the limits the council set on Tuesday.
For the state’s two research universities, the limit is 5 percent. That’s an increase of $547 per student per year at the University of Kentucky and $527 per student per year for the University of Louisville. The limit is $432 per student per year for the state’s comprehensive universities: Western Kentucky, Northern Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State, Murray State and Kentucky State.
Bevin was in Germany this week attending an industrial technology convention. His spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment. State lawmakers urged college and university presidents to not raise tuition to the full amount. Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo noted the House tried to pass a budget “that didn’t cut higher education at all” but eventually agreed to a compromise that included smaller cuts than Bevin had originally proposed.
“My hope is that the college and university leaders avoid tuition increases as much as possible and find other ways to absorb some of these costs,” Stumbo said.
Mike Wilson, the Republican chairman of the state Senate Education Committee, noted colleges and universities raise tuition every year, even when the legislature increases their funding.
“I believe universities should be sensitive to their clientele. Three percent, to me, would seem like a moderate increase,” he said.
More cuts could be coming.
Bevin cut spending for most colleges and universities by nearly $18 million for the final three months of the fiscal year. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear sued Bevin, arguing he does not have the authority to cut spending without the approval of the state legislature. The case is pending.
— From staff, AP reports