FRANKFORT (AP) — The president of Kentucky’s community and technical college system says Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget cuts would likely fall on the backs of its poor, mostly part time students by forcing the system to request a tuition increase of more than 8 percent.
Bevin responded by attending a rally of community and technical college presidents and supporters at the state Capitol, telling them: “The cuts have to come from somewhere.”
The first term Republican governor has not backed down from his budget cuts despite united opposition from the state’s college and university presidents. University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto has called the cuts “draconian.” Kentucky State University President Raymond Burse, after indicating in a letter to students and faculty the school might be forced to close, said the school would continue to operate but could lose 100 employees and $6 million in matching federal funds.
“I just think this current budget we have proposed by the governor is not doable,” said Democratic state Rep. Gerald Watkins of Paducah.
Thursday, Kentucky Community and Technical College System President Jay Box said the cuts would amount to $17 million from his budget, which would require an 8.8 percent tuition increase to make up the difference. The Council on Postsecondary Education must approve all tuition increases, and they normally have allowed the community and technical colleges average increases of about 3.5 percent. If the budget cuts go through and the tuition increase fails, Box said he would have to lay off 539 people and end 61 instructional programs.
“You will hear a thousand sad stories, and they are sad,” Bevin told the crowd of college supporters, who had gathered to watch him sign a proclamation officially declaring it Kentucky Community and Technological College System Day. “The money has to be paid by somebody. … ‘Draconian’ (means) cruel and unusual. There is nothing cruel and unusual about doing the very things that each of us is required to do in our own homes, in our own businesses, in our own lives every single day. This is reality.”
Kentucky’s public pension systems, a combined shortfall of $30 billion, and lawmakers have been grappling over how to keep the systems operating. Bevin has proposed cutting $650 million of state spending over the next two years and using that money to begin plugging the multi-billion dollar holes. If all goes according to plan, his budget would set aside an additional $1 billion for the pension systems. The public school teachers’ retirement system alone needs an additional $1 billion over the next two years.
Bevin noted his budget includes $100 million for programs to train people how to get jobs in fields like advanced manufacturing, adding Kentucky’s community and technical colleges could apply for that money. Democrats have criticized the proposal because it would borrow the $100 million and does not have any established criteria for awarding the money. House Democrats will reveal their budget proposal around the first week of March and likely will not include such drastic cuts to higher education.
Since 2008, lawmakers have cut state appropriations to colleges and universities by $173.5 million. During that same time period, colleges and universities have increased tuition to generate an additional $588.6 million.
“What’s going on? Why should we not demand accountability from the leaders of every institution that this commonwealth funds,” Republican Senate budget chairman Chris McDaniel said.
University of Louisville President James Ramsey said much of the money generated from his school’s tuition increases go back into student financial aid.
“Out of every tuition dollar we get, about 70 percent is available for general expenditure purposes,” he said. “The best dollar we have is a state dollar because it is 100 percent discretionary.”