Council on Postsecondary Education sets tuition policy – Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

Council on Postsecondary Education sets tuition policy

The Council on Postsecondary Education set tuition policy for the next academic year, as well as released the 2020 annual progress report for Kentucky’s public colleges and universities at today’s quarterly meeting. Unsurprisingly, the impact of the COVID-19 public health crisis on Kentucky students and our postsecondary institutions colored much of the discussion. As Kentucky institutions have shifted to on-line learning for the remainder of the spring term, uncertainty remains as to how students and campuses will respond through the summer and into the next academic year. This uncertainty will impact Kentucky’s ability to maintain progress toward educational attainment goals and the types of innovative strategies that will be necessary to ensure student success.

The lessons of the 2008 Great Recession are not far in our rear-view mirror. In the nation’s recovery from that period, 11.5 million of the 11.6 million net new jobs created went to workers with at least some postsecondary education.  This fact should resonate as the Commonwealth considers its response and recovery efforts to the current crisis and the economic and social challenges sure to come.

The Prichard Committee on Higher Education in Kentucky’s Future noted in its 1981 report In Pursuit of Excellence, that “despite a tendency of people to become pessimistic about the value of [postsecondary] institutions, [they] still look to education as the road to a better life and as the source of information and talent needed to solve problems.” Such sentiment must echo today as Kentucky faces the current crisis and crafts solutions to ensure the promise that education represents for Kentuckians – the promise for a Big, Bold Future.

No Tuition Ceilings for the 2020-21 Academic Year – Council will adopt rates in June on a Campus Basis

With many students and families facing financial disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic – and institutions facing financial uncertainty – the Council voted to not set a tuition ceiling for the upcoming academic year. Instead, the Council will consider tuition rates on a campus-by-campus basis at its June meeting. The uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic drove the decision, even though the Council’s finance committee had recommended a 0% increase in resident undergraduate tuition for the upcoming academic year. In practice, some institutions have already signaled they will not increase tuition, while Kentucky’s research universities and community colleges asked for more flexibility.

While tuition has increased substantially since 2008 (71% at 4-year and 51% at 2-year institutions), these came in light of a 21% decline in state support to colleges and universities.

Students, families, and institutions continue to be tested by these financial realities, we hope that ultimately tuition is considered in the full context of affordability challenges for students and the supports they need to be successful. Moreover, the full economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is yet to be realized. Even with almost $110 million in assistance from the federal CARES Act to Kentucky public colleges and universities (50% of which is to go direct to student emergency aid), significant financial challenges seem certain for the near future which will require difficult decisions and new strategies focusing our delivery of postsecondary education.

Stronger By Degrees Annual Progress Report Shows Growth and Presents Challenges

The annual report on higher education’s progress toward meeting strategic goals for student success and institutional growth will be released Monday. The report will detail progress to celebrate and indicators that raise concerns as to whether we can stay on track to meet long term goals of ensuring postsecondary education is reaching all Kentuckians.

Kentucky postsecondary institutions are continuing to push student success higher overall. And while we should celebrate increasing graduation rates and degrees and credentials awarded for under-represented minorities, the recent decline in success for some low-income students might foretell an issue with real or perceived affordability.  Of great concern is the decline in in-state college-going of high school graduates and enrollment of adult students.

If more Kentuckians don’t seek higher education, it goes without saying that reaching long-term attainment goals will get increasingly difficult.

These challenging times will require new innovations and broad partnerships to reach the Commonwealth’s educational, economic, workforce, and civic potential. These efforts, and the investments necessary, will undoubtedly be difficult in the near-term – making all the more necessary strategic commitment and sustained effort to ensure we can continue our progress.  Progress that will ensure a Big, Bold Future for all Kentuckians through education excellence.

Check our Ed Blog Monday for a detailed analysis…

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