Kentucky has made some of the deepest cuts to higher education in the country since 2008, putting it among the 10 states with the biggest per-student funding reductions for public universities and community colleges, according to a new study.
The results are much higher tuition and reduced quality in schools across the nation, concludes the Washington D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Kentucky has also fallen behind other states that started to re-invest in higher education in the decade after the Great Recession.
“This report shows that as the majority of states are re-investing in their futures by committing to funding higher education, Kentucky continues to move in the wrong direction,” said Kenny Colston, spokesman for the liberal-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, which works with the Washington group. “Every cut in state funding puts pressure on students by resulting in rising tuition costs — which prices low-income students out of opportunities and forces thousands of others into unmanageable student loan debt.”
The study found that since 2008, Kentucky has cut per-student funding by 26.4 percent, or $2,832 per student. It’s also one of only 13 states that has continued to cut state funding to higher education between 2016 and 2017. Gov. Matt Bevin and the General Assembly approved a 4.5 percent cut to higher education in the current two-year state budget, saying it was needed to deal with Kentucky’s underfunded pensions.
Colston said the General Assembly should address the issue with tax reform, closing loopholes that give away billions of dollars a year. Bevin has discussed special legislative sessions for both tax reform and pension reform, but as yet has not set a date for either.
According to the study, Arizona is at the bottom of the list, having cut per-student funding by 53.8 percent, followed by Louisiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Alabama.