While state lawmakers attempt to rein in overspending and deal with a public-pension crisis spiraling out of control, Kentucky’s universities have figured out how to rake in even more dollars from students while spinning a narrative about Chicken Little trudging across their campuses, heading for the bell towers preparing to squawk: “This time, I really mean it! The sky is falling!”
Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education President Bob King in a recent presentation he entitled “Effects of Budget Cuts on Kentucky’s Public Institutions” inadvertently reveals effective magic tricks honed by university bureaucrats, who bemoan modest funding reductions only to enact tuition increases dwarfing the size of those cuts.
For instance, King claims Eastern Kentucky University was forced to raise tuition by more than 5 percent while cutting faculty and staff positions because the school garners $3 million less in state funding this year.
Yet that 5 percent tuition surge means EKU students were forced to ante up an additional $5.1 million to enroll and also will suffer the consequences related to program and personnel cutbacks.
Bill Robinson, the Richmond Register’s senior news writer, reports that even with those cuts, the university’s budget grows nearly $7 million heavier during the 2016-17 school year.
So … the state cuts its funding to EKU by $3 million; the school responds by raising tuition by $5 million and its budget swells by $7 million.
It’s an effective magic trick favored by big spenders of public dollars who expertly create crisis – correction: perception of crisis – in order to justify raising tuition prices.
University of Kentucky’s magic makers were able to pull an even bigger rabbit out of their tuition hat.
While UK is receiving $13 million less from Frankfort this year, the school’s president, Eli Capilouto, promises the school will still hand out raises and escalate financial aid by nearly 13 percent to $117 million.
Of course, it helps when you’re going to raise an additional $25 million in tuition during the 2016-17 school year.
So … the state cuts UK’s funding by $13 million; the school raises tuition by $25 million and increases the future student-loan pain factor by $117 million.
The end result: UK students who enrolled this year and graduate in four years will fork over north of $100,000 just for a bachelor’s degree.
Question, prof: How is it that students currently pay less to attend flagship universities in Maryland and neighboring Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia than in Kentucky, and yet UK’s tuition rates continue to rise?
Western Kentucky University will rake in an additional $10 million from its 4.6 percent tuition boost even though it’s getting only $3.4 million less from Frankfort.
Talk about not letting a crisis – or even the perception of one – go to waste.
Murray State University will receive $2.2 million less in state budget funds this year but, not to be left out of the tuition bonanza, the school raised rates by more than 5 percent and will gobble up an additional $5.87 million from its students.
The University of Louisville and Morehead State University also followed suit with similar tuition-hikes-dwarf-spending-cuts scenarios.
Gov. Matt Bevin’s opponents fought his administration’s decision to prune a paltry $18 million from higher-education funding during the final year of the state’s previous two-year budget.
But that amount is less than one-third of the new tuition dollars that college students are forced to beg for – or borrow – just to attend classes in the Bluegrass State this year.
Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute; Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at [email protected] Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.