By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
FRANKFORT, Ky. — As Kentucky has seen a significant decline in higher education funding in recent years, Kentucky’s colleges and universities are asking lawmakers to give an additional $127 million in the next two-year state budget to add to the performance-based funding model.
The ask comes as Kentucky has seen a 1.9% decrease in funding for the state’s colleges and universities over a five-year period, while neighboring states like Tennessee have increased their investment by more than 33%, Virginia has increased funding by 26%, and Ohio has seen a 12% jump according to data released for the 2020 fiscal year.
The performance-based funding model used by Kentucky, which passed through the General Assembly in the 2017 session, allocates a portion of the state higher education funding based on a university’s performance on 11 key metrics including degrees produced, earned credit hours, student progression, and more.
At a meeting of the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education on Thursday, Counsel on Postsecondary Education (CPE) President Aaron Thompson explained to lawmakers that while he believes performance-based funding is working and there has been growth in key areas because of the model, more funds are needed to ensure the schools are able to hold harmless many key areas and ensure college tuition is affordable.
Thompson added that while they are aware of the many struggles faced by the legislature in crafting the next two-year state budget, he believes postsecondary education is a solution to many of those issues noting that education supports job growth and that many low-income individuals on Medicaid (which has a significant, growing impact on the state budget) don’t have higher degrees and struggle with employment. He also explained those with some level of higher education tend to be more engaged civically which is critical to growing the state economically.
On the issue of affordability, Thompson said the higher education community has to be more transparent about what students will pay for a degree and what college actually looks like for them. He said the net cost for students getting an associate’s degree averages $31,000 while a bachelor’s degree costs around $55,000 with classes, room and board, books, and other costs.
The return on investment of higher education was also a key area highlighted by Thompson as he said while state funding has decreased at a rate of around 18% per student, evidence shows that for every $41,000 the state invests in a bachelor’s degree student, $1.7 million is expected to return to the economy.
CPE is also looking for an increase in funding for the state’s dual credit scholarship program which allows students to start earning college credits while still in high school. Thompson said duel credits have been linked to higher GPAs and a positive impact for minority, low income, and academically unprepared students.
Thompson says the program helps with college affordability as students spend less time and money in college but added they must do a better job of working with high schools so that they can ensure the credits match up with curriculum when the student goes to college.
Gov. Andy Beshear will release his version of the budget Tuesday and then lawmakers will begin crafting their budgets in the coming weeks.