GOP leader wants to freeze university tuition in Ky.

FRANKFORT (AP) — The leader of the state Senate’s powerful Republican Caucus wants to freeze tuition and fees at state colleges and universities, saying education officials have used state budget cuts as an excuse to recklessly raise the cost of a college degree in Kentucky.

State Sen. Dan Seum of Louisville filed a bill on Tuesday that would prohibit state colleges and universities from increasing tuition or fees for the next four years. After that, any tuition or fee increase would have to be approved by the state legislature, an unlikely event given the politics surrounding college finances.

Colleges and universities have had to endure steep budget cuts during the Great Recession, when Kentucky was plagued by multimillion-dollar deficits that forced lawmakers to make hard choices. Since 2008, the state legislature has slashed higher-education funding by 16 percent, or $173.5 million. But during that same time period, colleges and universities have increased tuition to generate an extra $588.6 million that stays with the schools.

Sue Patrick, spokeswoman for the Council on Postsecondary Education, said looking at tuition and fee revenue “does not provide a complete picture” because it does not account for the financial aid offered by the colleges and state and federal governments. On a per-student basis adjusted for inflation, state funding has dropped by $2,690 per student since 2008, while tuition and fee revenue have increased by $2,259 per student, Patrick said. That’s a reduction of $431 per student, or a $70 million loss for Kentucky’s higher education system.

The Council on Postsecondary Education, a 15-member group appointed by the governor, must approve all tuition and fee increases at state colleges and universities. The state legislature set it up that way with the goal of removing politics from determining a reasonable tuition rate.

Patrick, the council’s spokeswoman, said she would not comment on the bill until she has had a chance to read it. The bill was not available to view on the state legislature’s website as of Tuesday afternoon.

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