A new report shows more students are graduating from Kentucky's public colleges and universities but are having a tough time getting financial aid from the state.
The Council on Postsecondary Education's annual accountability report shows state colleges and universities conferred more than 62,400 degrees and certificates in the 2012-13 school year, a 13 percent increase from four years ago.
But more than 107,000 students who qualified for financial aid were denied because the state did not have enough money to give it to them -- a 57 percent increase from four years ago.
Council President Robert King urged state lawmakers to protect student financial aid money in future budgets. State Sen. Stan Humphries, chairman of the higher education budget subcommittee, said lawmakers need to carefully watch the scholarship money.
Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education President Bob King is now heading up the national organization that represents and oversees higher education on behalf of the states.
King was elected chairman of the Executive Committee of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. He stepped into the new post this week for a one-year term.
He will preside over the organization's annual meeting and meetings of its executive committee. He will also advise and oversee the work of the organization's president and appoint committee chairmen.
The Kentucky council said King will also help shape the association's policy direction in areas including student completion, affordability, data usage and other issues and will participate in discussions about helping students achieve college degrees and credentials.
Kentucky's Council on Postsecondary Education wants a united front when pressing legislators for a third consecutive year for performance funding for state universities.
In a meeting Wednesday, CPE President Bob King said he wants to give legislators a clear option that achieves good for the state. But he says the CPE can’t do it without the legislators help.
“While we would like you to match the amount we are willing to put of our current base at risk, whether that’s 2 percent, 3 percent, 8 percent, whatever it is,” King said. “I think it’s a way of demonstrating good faith to them, whether it’s reciprocated with some good faith back who the hell knows?”
CPE committee members are looking to successful states—Tennessee, Indiana and Mississippi—where at least a portion of funds are tied to outcomes like graduation rate or course completion.
“My hope is that we can end up with a process that allows every campus to feel they’re being treated fairly. Ultimately what we want is every campus to be treated adequately, meeting House Bill 1 (1997), and that through that we can best serve the needs of Kentucky and the people we educate.”
The number of degrees and credentials conferred this year by public and private college and universities across Kentucky has gone up. The Herald-Leader reports the total of 63,148 represents a 1.2 percent increase over last year, according to statistics released Friday by the Council on Post-Secondary Education.
Private universities saw a nine percent growth in degrees handed out. The numbers are preliminary with a full report from the CPE later this year.
Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education is already tailoring its next state budget request to include performance funding for state universities.
The General Assembly did not include the CPE’s request for performance funding in its two-year spending plan that awaits the governor’s signature. CPE President Bob King says the performance funding request was among several suggestions to bring more money to the state’s universities.
“One of those purposes was to create a pot of money that would be distributed to the campuses tied to the proportion of degrees that they produced,” he said. “And there was a premium for students who earned degrees in the STEM field—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—or in health fields because we know that our workforce needs people with those skills quite substantially.”
King says in addition to going over this legislative session’s budget to determine the tuition cap for state universities, the CPE is working on its funding request for the next session.
The leader of Kentucky's Council on Postsecondary Education is joining others in calling for the Governor to renew funding for the state's colleges and universities.
CPE President Bob King and officials from Kentucky's postsecondary institutions have signed a newspaper op-ed pointing out that 70,000 students who qualified for need-based aid last year went without.
King says state campuses have had to take revenue from students who could pay full tuition to help fund aid programs that Pell Grants and state programs can no longer fully support.
"The aid that's being provided by the institutions means that those dollars that they are otherwise receiving in the form of tuition can't be spent to hire more faculty, or to (purchase) more computing equipment or laboratory equipment--all the things that we need to enhance the academic experience for our students," King said during a phone interview.
King's comments come ahead of Governor Beshear's budget address Tuesday evening in Frankfort.
The president of the Kentucky Board of Education says new academic standards for science education in public schools include material on evolution that has been in place since 2006.
David Karem says Kentucky worked with 26 other states on the scientific standards, which were approved Wednesday by the state Board of Education on a 9-0 vote.
Karem told WKU Public Radio Thursday that the evolution teachings will more closely align Kentucky's curriculum with entry-level college requirements. And he says it's in no way an effort to step on anybody's religious beliefs.
"I think the point is that there is no intent in the scientific standards that are being adopted that go into a person's religious beliefs or interfere with them in any way," said Karem.
The President of Kentuckians for Science Education, Robert Bevins, said climate change and evolution may be politically controversial for some people, but they aren't scientifically controversial.
The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education voted Thursday to cap tuition increases for in-state undergraduate students at the state’s public schools at three percent. It’s the smallest average tuition hike for Kentucky’s public institutions in 15 years.
WKU President Gary Ransdell spoke to the CPE at its meeting at Lindsey Wilson College, and asked for a five percent increase for WKU.
In an email to faculty and staff Thursday afternoon, Dr. Ransdell said WKU will have to endure a budget cut due to the smaller-than-hoped-for tuition increase.
"A five percent increase would have given us a balanced budget for next year with no cuts," the WKU President wrote. "This CPE action, however, means that we have budget work to do before taking a balanced budget to our Board of Regents in June."
"We will take this in stride as we have done for the last several years. I have asked the Vice Presidents to begin making recommendations as we begin budget reduction conversations on Monday. Every effort will be made to protect as many jobs as possible and to act in the best interest of our students and employees. I will be back in touch in due course as options take shape. "
CPE President Bob King said the board felt that tuition increases should be kept "as minimal as possible" given the "challenging economic environment" that students are facing.