College tuition in state continues downward trend

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – While Kentucky parents may worry about their children’;s health and safety at college this fall, they won’t have to fret quite as much about tuition taking a bigger chunk out of their wallets.

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education finalized tuition rates for public universities, preserving college affordability with the smallest average rate increase in decades — and average of less than 1%.

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The historic move allows resident, undergraduate students to enter the 2020-21 academic year with an average tuition increase of only 0.7%. That continues a now four-year trend of steadily declining rate increases at state colleges and universities.

“Campuses have shown extraordinary leadership during difficult financial times, and I want to praise them for their steady, model approach to tuition this year,” said CPE President Aaron Thompson. “College affordability is essential to student success and well-being, and campuses are demonstrating the highest commitment to those goals, even when funding is tight.”

Friday’s approval clears the way for a 1% increase in resident, undergraduate and graduate tuition at the University of Kentucky (UK). Non-residents, both undergraduate and graduate, will see a 2% increase.

The University of Louisville (UofL) received a green light for a 2% increase in resident and non-resident undergraduate tuition. Rates will also rise 2% for resident graduate students and 1% for non-resident graduate students.

At Eastern Kentucky University (EKU), officials will not implement any tuition hikes for 2020-21 and plan to decrease charges to non-resident graduate students by 3.1%.

UK, UofL and EKU are the last three public institutions to finalize tuition charges for the upcoming academic year.

Kentucky’s five other public universities – Kentucky State University, Morehead State University, Murray State University, Northern Kentucky University and Western Kentucky University – received approval from CPE last month to forgo any rate hikes in their base tuition rates for the upcoming year.

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System is increasing rates by $5 per credit hour for resident undergraduates and $10 per credit hour for non-residents.

Rate increases have fluctuated through the years but have generally remained lower since CPE began implementing tuition and fee ceilings in 2010-11.

The Council did not cap tuition for the 2020-21 academic year; however, CPE encouraged campuses to limit increases in light of the economic setbacks of COVID-19.

At the same time, the latest estimates from CPE show that public campuses suffered a $144.8 million financial hit in fiscal year 2020 due to the pandemic. That caused some institutions to seek a minimal rate hike.

“Our state, our campuses and our students are facing many of the same struggles,” Thompson said. “But we must remember that higher education provides the blueprint to rebuild our economy, and more accessibility to college will lead to a faster, more resilient rebound overall.”

While rates are typically approved through a vote of the entire Council, UK, UofL and EKU were still finalizing proposals as of the Council’s last meeting. As a result, the Council authorized its Finance Committee to review and take action on final rates.