Beshear promises university leaders he'll push for tax reform, explains 3% tuition cap

05/01/2013 09:21 AM

Gov. Steve Beshear’s direction to the Council on Postsecondary Education last month was clear: tuition at Kentucky’s public universities cannot go up more than 3 percent.

Most have raised tuition between 4 percent and 6 percent each of the last several years.

“There’s not a whole lot of new money that’s going to be coming down the pike, and we all know that. So we’re going to have to be more innovative. We’ve got to find new ways of delivering the product to our people. And the universities are accepting that challenge,” Beshear said. “And I just thought a 3 percent increase was as much as we ought to have right now.”

While tuition has steadily increased, not all eight public universities have seen the net cost to students go up once grants and scholarships are factored in. In fact, the average amount students at Northern Kentucky University have paid — as opposed to the tuition sticker price — dropped more than 10 percent between 2007 and 2009, according to the White House college tuition scorecard. Kentucky State University saw the sharpest increase in net cost of 18 percent.

Beshear met with university leaders Monday, including those who weren’t happy with the 3 percent cap. Most notably, Western Kentucky President Gary Ransdell had raised concerns at the April 18 Council on Postsecondary Education meeting in which the new tuition caps were approved. Ransdell has led an aggressive expansion of academic programs and buildings that have relied on tuition increases in light of state budget cuts that have rolled back public funding to 2005-06 levels.

Beshear said he and the university leaders talked about education and funding strategies. And that included generating new state revenue by changing the tax code.

“We talked about tax reform. And I told them that I was committed to those conversations,” Beshear said. “… I’m going to spend this year talking and working on those issues to see if we can’t do something in the next session of the General Assembly.”

One of Kentucky’s public universities will be looking for its next leader. Murray State University’s board of trustees decided this spring not to bring back President Randy Dunn, whose contract expires next year.

But Beshear, who hails from Dawson Springs which is about an hour-and-a-half away from Murray, said he has no plans to eventually head up Murray State — or any other university — after he leaves public office at the end of 2015.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.