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Kentucky universities can raise tuition 8%

University of Kentucky

Kentucky’s public universities received permission to increase tuition as much as 8 percent over the next two years – potentially hiking yet again the sticker price of a college education.

With state funding falling and university expectations rising, the Council on Postsecondary Education decided it had to approve the allowed increase, which applies to in-state undergraduate students for the coming school year. But it capped the increase at no more than 5 percent in either year.

Community-college tuition would be capped at a lower 4 percent increase over two years, the higher education council decided.

Universities will individually decide whether or how to adopt and spread out increase, which officials said could generate as much in $66 million in revenue.

“Since I’ve been on the council, the universities have been cut by the state every year. And every year, we have asked them to do more,” said Pam Miller, chair of the higher-education council. “It’s admirable that our campuses continue to maintain exceptional quality and service to students.”

At the University of Louisville an 8 percent increase would put 2015-16 tuition and fees at $10,546 – a cost that has already jumped 45 percent since 2008.

The University of Kentucky’s undergrad cost could rise to $10,780. And community college costs would rise to $158 a credit hour, with a bond fee added.

Northern Kentucky University’s undergraduate rate for is $4,044 per semester this year, according to a university spokesman. The cap would limit any tuition hike to $4,246 per semester in the 2015-15 academic year.

The university has not yet set rates for next year. Universities are expected to submit their plans to the state by June 20.

The two-year approach “helps students and families plan ahead for college, moderates tuition increases over two years, and balances the need for our institutions to partially offset state budget cuts and increased fixed costs,” said Bob King, president of the council.

More than 128,500 students are enrolled at Kentucky’s public four-year universities.

The approved increase – which would average about 4 percent a year – is slightly more than the 3 percent hike set last year – the lowest in a decade. But it would still leave a more than $25 million shortfall across Kentucky post-secondary institutions for 2014-15, officials said.

Cost increases in student financial aid, health insurance and retirement are partly responsible for the shortfall, officials said. But the state earlier this month also cut nearly $14 million in general fund contributions for colleges and universities, including nearly $2 million for U of L. In all, universities in Kentucky have had their budgets cut nearly a dozen times since 2000.

That has increasingly shifted the financial burden to students. According to the College Board, 57 percent of graduates of public four-year colleges in 2012 had school debt, with the average debt of $25,000 – 22 percent higher than a decade ago.

To help offset state cuts, universities have increased fundraising, with U of L now getting more money from its foundation than the state government. It recently announced that a 7-year-old capital campaign to endow teaching chairs, upgrade facilities and create grants and scholarships for students had topped $1 billion.

The council Tuesday also agreed to keep non-resident undergraduate rates at least two times the resident rate.

Officials said the council and various universities will revisit the ceilings for 2015-16 should there be a change in net General Fund appropriations.

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