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The Kentucky reform legislation has led to gains in family
literacy, said Cheryl King, vice president of the Kentucky
Council on Postsecondary Education.
In fiscal year
2005, University
of Kentucky
researchers
brought in a record
$273.9 million in
outside grants and
contracts.
more than 51,000 students learning communication and
computer skills.
Despite these gains, the Council on Postsecondary
Education is increasingly concerned that higher education
is becoming too expensive for average Kentuckians. Tuition
went up this year at all the four-year public universities and
for the two-year college system as well. Eastern Kentucky
University raised its tuition 23 percent, to $4,660, the highest
percentage increase, while UK’s tuition went up 12.5 percent,
to $5,812. The KCTCS Regents boosted that system’s tuition
by 6.5 percent, from $92 to $98 per credit hour.
Each public university sets its own tuition, but the
council must approve all increases. In May, however, the
council—prodded by Fletcher, other politicians and the
public—voted to require colleges and universities to provide
more justification for tuition hikes. The schools also must
submit proposed tuition rates next year in time to allow for
public comment and student notification. Fletcher said he
was pleased to see the council exercise its role “a little more
aggressively than in the past.”
The council has also undertaken two affordability studies
to determine if the state is pricing low-income Kentuckians
out of higher education. One of these recently concluded
that “by most measures, Kentucky higher education is within
reasonable range of affordability for most students.” It added,
however, that independent students from low-income groups
do not get as much state aid as those still living with their
parents and must borrowmore money.
To succeed, Kentucky educators must maintain the
collaboration between universities, independent colleges
and community colleges, said Ed Hughes, president of
Gateway Community and Technical College in northern
Kentucky. “I have felt, and see, a falling off
of that collaboration,” he said, adding that
it is a critical issue for the council to push.
“We cannot go back to the days when one
university never talked to another.” Kentucky
higher education also needs “another 15
years” as a top funding priority for both the
governor and the legislature, Hughes added.
“Yes, all of us would like more money,”
said Northern Kentucky University
President Votruba. “But the challenge is to
use the funds that we have in creative ways.
We have to demonstrate, in the governor’s
language, ROI—or return on investment.
I think if we do that, that can be Governor
Fletcher’s stamp on what was a Governor
Patton initiative.
To continue expanding enrollment, Kentucky must reach
more people like Janie Spurlock and Teresa Younce. And
it’s not always easy for adults even when they are highly
motivated.
“When you start something like this, you’re scared
you can’t do it,” Spurlock said. She took some of her first
courses over instructional television, and when she got
into conventional classes Spurlock did very well, eventually
maintaining a 4.0 average. “I realized I wasn’t stupid. I could
do this,” she said, adding that her older children and several
local high school students helped her to learn the computer
skills she lacked.
Faculty members helped as well. Several professors
traveled regularly fromMorehead to the Prestonsburg center
to teach in the social work program. “They did a lot of
personal things for us—like picking up books on the main
campus so we didn’t have to stand in a line there after driving
an hour and a half—as well as educating us,” Younce said in
gratitude. “They were like a family.”
u
Kay Mills is the author of “This Little Light of Mine: The Life
of Fannie Lou Hamer,” and four other books.
Elaine Shay for CrossTalk