Continued Higher Education Cuts Place Kentucky Among Worst in Country

By Kenny Colston
May 19, 2016

Kentucky is continuing its tumble to the bottom as one of the worst states in funding cuts to higher education, a new report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities shows.  Kentucky ranks 6th-worst among states in percentage cuts to higher education since 2008 and is in the bottom 10 among states in other funding categories, according to the report. This disinvestment once again threatens to limit students’ access to higher education, as well as our state’s opportunities for economic growth.

While most states have begun to restore higher education funding after cutting during the recession, Kentucky continues to cut, including with last-minute cuts for 2016 by Gov. Matt Bevin and with additional cuts coming in July when the new fiscal year begins — all together a 4.5 percent cut. These continued cuts make it harder for students to afford college and for the state to invest in our communities and grow jobs and businesses.

“As Kentucky continues to cut, we start reversing all the gains made by past education improvements,” Ashley Spalding, research and policy associate at the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said said. “We are sliding backwards, when what we should be doing is investing in our education institutions, which in turn is investment in our communities. We should follow the lead of the majority of states and start increasing funding for higher education again, instead of balancing our state budgets on the backs of students.”

Some “lowlights” of Kentucky in the report:

  • Since the recession, Kentucky has cut higher education funding 32 percent, one of 8 states to cut more than 30 percent since 2008. Kentucky’s ranking of 6th-worst among states in percentage cut since 2008 is a fall from 11th-worst in last year’s report.
  • Kentucky is one of 11 states that are continuing to cut higher education in the current year, in contrast to 37 states that are increasing funding. Five states actually increased per student funding by more than 10 percent this year.
  • Kentucky is one of three states that has cut funding for the past two years joining Vermont and Arkansas.

In order to stop Kentucky’s higher education funding slide, lawmakers should clean up the tax code by ending some of the billions of dollars in tax breaks that drain revenue so we have the resources to better invest, Spalding said.

For the average student, federal and state aid has not kept pace with rising costs, the report found.

“More young people could afford college and gain for themselves and the economy the benefits of greater earnings if states reversed their declining support for higher education,” said Michael Mitchell, senior policy analyst at CBPP and lead author of the report.

You can view the report here.