This UK program helps students graduate by paying the bills
For the first time in 15 years, University of Kentucky students will pay the same tuition rates, no matter what year they are in school.
Up to now, freshman and sophomores have paid slightly less than juniors and seniors. The change means that for in-state underclassmen, tuition will jump 2.4 percent, while juniors and seniors will see a slight drop., about a .5 percent decrease.
The total price for both semesters for in-state students will be $12,360. Out of state students will see a bigger increase, 6.2 percent for year’s tuition of $30,680.
At a budget briefing on Tuesday, UK officials told several Board of Trustees members that the new system would be simpler and more transparent. The Board of Trustees is expected to approve UK’s $4.2 billion budget at its meeting on June 21.
UK’s total annual cost of attendance is $31,000, an estimate that includes tuition, fees, room, board and other costs. That’s up 3 percent from the year before.
The budget will also set tuition for its new and expanded roster of online classes. Undergraduate online classes will $601 per credit hour for students who are also taking at least one on-campus class and $570 per credit hour for students who are taking classes online only. The rates are the same for in-state and out of state students.
The state’s flagship school got a slight increase in state funding, thanks to performance funding, which rewards schools on statistics such as number of science and technology graduates. Not surprisingly, UK came out ahead with $2.5 million, a 1 percent bump from the year before. The tuition increase will bring in another $20.5 million and an increase in investment income garnered $7.8 million. UK is expecting a record 5,350 freshman this fall.
Those increases will allow UK to offer a 2 percent merit pool salary raise for faculty and staff, as well as shifting $13.5 million more into student financial aid. UK’s internal financial aid pool is $146 million, as it begins to shift financial aid to students who need it the most.
“This budget clearly reflects the efforts we are making to lower costs and ensure affordable access for students to the outstanding educational experience we provide at Kentucky’s university,” said President Eli Capilouto.
But UK’s budget also shows a startling big picture of how much state support of higher education has declined. UK has lost more than $55 million in state funding since 2010; when compared to the total budget, which includes UK HealthCare, the state’s flagship university gets just 6.2 percent of its funding from state support. In 2010, that percentage was a little more than 13 percent.
Although many states had to cut higher education funding after the Great Recession of 2018, Kentucky is one of only five state that last year did not increase higher education support, according to a study from Illinois State University.
“I don’t think we value education in the way some other states do,” said trustee David Hawpe. “If we did, it would be reflected in the political decisions that are made in Frankfort.”
UK officials often stress UK’s overall affordability, however a series of protests on campus over food and housing insecurity earlier this year highlighted UK’s lack of affordability for many. The amount of total unmet need for in-state undergraduate students has fallen from $111 million to $93 million, thanks to a new emphasis on helping students with unpaid bills. Still about 61 percent of undergraduate students who fill out the federal financial aid form have unmet financial need.
Overall, about 40 percent of students don’t fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which may indicate they don’t need to be considered for grants or loans.
UK has touted one set of numbers that show 49 percent of students graduate without any debt. However that is based on a cohort of students that started in 2012. By 2018, only 66 percent of them graduated. As UK has found, students are more likely to drop out because of financial strain than academic problems. That would push up the number of students with no financial issues into a higher percentage of those who finish.
“I think we’re doing a good job in targeting help to low-income students,” Hawpe noted. “But there is still a lot of pain out there.”