Governor to create task force on rising cost of college

Gov. Steve Beshear is expected to announce a task force to study affordability of and access to higher education.

"No student in Kentucky with the brains and desire to go to college should be denied," he said Monday night at the Urban League of Lexington-Fayette County's 40th anniversary dinner. More than 500 people attended the event at the Lexington Convention Center.

In the past five years, the cost of tuition at Kentucky's public universities and community colleges has risen more than 12 percent a year on average.

The high cost of college has already caught the attention of some in Frankfort. The General Assembly's interim joint education committee made it an agenda item over the summer.

In July, Council on Postsecondary Education officials warned that the higher costs could prevent a significant number of students from attending college.

If action were not taken, it would be impossible to reach a goal of doubling the number of holders of bachelor's degrees to 800,000 by 2020, interim council president Richard A. Crofts said this summer.

That goal was one of several laid out in 1997 legislative reforms overhauling the state's higher education system.

"I think the governor feels a sense of urgency to jump-start some of the issues raised by the reforms if we're going to have the kind of work force" needed in a 21st-century economy, governor's spokesman Jay Blanton said.

A little less than 20 percent of Kentuckians have bachelor's degrees, which is lower than the national average of 25 percent, he said.

Blanton said the study group will be a large, bipartisan panel that will include business, education and political leaders. The state's college presidents will serve as panel advisers.

The group is expected to issue several recommendations to help identify ways to make college more affordable. That includes providing more financial-aid information to parents and easing the way for students transferring from community colleges to four-year institutions, Blanton said.