Report: Kentucky 'losing Ground' On Making Higher Ed Affordable

This story was written by Jill Laster, Kentucky Kernel
The average Kentucky family spent more than 30 percent of its income on one year of expenses at a public four-year institution in 2006, according to a state report released this week.

The Council on Postsecondary Education, which oversees higher education decisions including tuition, said the state is "losing ground" in three of the four areas it uses to measure progress toward making postsecondary education more affordable.

Overall, the report said the the state is "making progress" on 17 of its 26 measurements, while "losing ground" in four areas and "holding steady" on five.

The average for all families is up 8 percentage points from 2004, and low-income families are also harder hit, the report said.

In 2006, Kentucky's low-income families needed 24 percent of their incomes to pay for one year of tuition at one of the schools in the Kentucky Community and Technical Colleges system, up from 20 percent in 2004. The average debt from student loans has also increased by about $200 in that time period, to $3,018.

The only measurement of affordability that has improved in the report is the state's investment in need-based financial aid, which increased by two points to 42 percent of federal Pell grant funding.

The report's release comes at nearly the same time as a decision by President Lee Todd to recommend the university raise tuition 9 percent for next year. The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees will vote on tuition at its April 22 meeting.

In a campuswide e-mail Tuesday, Todd said he will propose that the board approve the university putting more money into financial aid for the next school year.

However, no new scholarships will likely be offered in the 2008-09 year, said University of Kentucky spokesman Jay Blanton. The "2020 Scholars" program, which included four new scholarships, was created for the 2007-08 school year and provided $5.5 million in aid.

About $1.2 million will be added to the scholarship funding, Blanton said, but those funds will go to maintaining existing scholarships as tuition increases.

Kentucky is making progress in some areas including increasing the average ACT scores. Between 2006 and 2007 the average ACT score went up 0.1 points, to 20.7. The national average ACT score went up 0.1 points as well, to 21.2.

Kentucky also improved in the number of GED recipients, up more than 70 in 2006, and the number of high school juniors per 1,000 passing Advanced Placement exams was up to 96 in 2006 from 84 in 2004.

The full report is available on the CPE website (http://www.cpe.ky.gov/planning/statusreports/).
© 2008 Kentucky Kernel via U-WIRE
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