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2008 June 2 - 12:00 am

MONEY TREE 1: Impact of Ky. Budget Cuts Means Fewer Slots for 2-Year Colleges

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s community colleges may have thousands fewer available slots next year after a state panel rejected a proposed double-digit tuition increase for them, the system’s president said.

As many as 6,000 students may find themselves without access to the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, President Michael McCall said. Reductions in state funding, and a smaller than requested tuition hike are to blame, he said.

“It’s counterintuitive,’’ McCall said of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education’s decision. “What they have chosen to do today is affordability in the name of accessibility. They have sacrificed accessibility for affordability.’’

Kentucky’s public universities have been grappling with increasing costs and decreasing state funds. The state is facing a $900 million revenue shortfall over the next two fiscal years beginning July 1.

State lawmakers last month approved a two-year $19 billion state spending plan that included an overall 3 percent cut in state funding to Kentucky’s public universities. The schools responded with proposed tuition hikes ranging from about 6 percent to about 13 percent. The higher education council approved tuition increases ranging from about 6 percent to nearly 10 percent.

Council members approved 9 percent tuition hikes at the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky, and a 9.7 percent jump at Northern Kentucky University. The council also approved increases of 7.4 percent at Morehead State University and 6.1 percent at Murray State University. 

Tuition hikes at Kentucky State University, Eastern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University and the community colleges were approved, but lower than what the institutions were asking.

KSU and EKU will both raise their tuition by 7 percent instead of the 8 percent they were seeking, under the council’s decision. Western Kentucky was authorized for an 8 percent boost, compared to the 9 percent it was seeking, but was given authority to raise tuition for out of state students by more than 13 percent.

Community colleges were seeking a tuition increase of about 13 percent, but the council approved only a 5.2 percent jump.

McCall said the move would likely force layoffs and cause officials to curtail enrollment, which is now at about 92,000 students. McCall said the smaller tuition hike will likely lead to cuts in services and elsewhere.

“It certainly will not be anywhere near 92,000,”’ McCall said of enrollment at Kentucky’s community colleges next year.

Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell said the permission to increase out of state rates should help offset the lower tuition hike for Kentucky residents. Otherwise, the school was facing the prospect of having to cut another $962,000 from its budget, Ransdell said.

“We have a quality program and I think out-of-state students will continue to be attracted to a quality institution,’’ Ransdell said. “So, I think this is a compromise within which we can work.’’  

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