Patton tells lawmakers that U. of Pikeville becoming public is the right answer to Eastern Ky.'s problems

02/21/2012 06:12 PM

Former Kentucky governor and current University of Pikeville President Paul Patton told lawmakers Tuesday that numbers make the best case for why the state should absorb the college into the public university system.

Patton testified before the House Education Committee armed with a host of statistics showing the gulf in educational attainment in the area surrounding the 1,100-student college. But some legislators on the panel, which did not take a vote on the proposal Tuesday, still maintain that what trumps the statistics Patton quoted is another set of numbers: dollars.

House Bill 260 would bring the university into the state university system using unallocated multi-county coal severance tax dollars of between $10 million and $13 million a year, at first. But the bill leaves open the prospect of using general funds that the other universities share — a point of contention among some, including leaders at Morehead State University.

But Patton outlined the need for a public university to serve 12 counties in southeastern Kentucky: Johnson, Martin, Magoffin, Breathitt, Floyd, Knott, Perry, Leslie, Bell, Harlan, Letcher and Pike Counties. And the need, he said, can be measured by:

  • The percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher in the 12-county area is 9.1 percent which is below the state average of 17.1 percent and the national average of 24.3 percent.
  • 64 percent of 2010 high school graduates in the 12-county Southeastern Kentucky Educational Attainment District attended community colleges compared to 38.1 percent for the rest of the state.
  • 17.2 percent attended in-state universities opposed 49.1 percent for the rest of the state.
  • 18.8 percent attended in-state independent colleges compared to 12.8 percent for the rest of the state.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Democrat House Speaker Greg Stumbo of Prestonsburg said the reason that so few attend four-year state universities is because there are no state universities in that immediate area.

A 2005 study showed that students in the 12-county Southeastern Kentucky district
who received a bachelor’s degree was 11.7 percent which was 86 percent lower than the rest of the state which was at 21.8 percent.

Under the plan, tuition at the University of Pikeville would drop from the current $17,050 to about $7,000 which is about the same as the state comprehensive universities. By comparison, UK is at $9,955, Eastern Kentucky University is $6,955 while Morehead State is $6,816.

But state Rep. Jim DeCesare, a Republican from Rockfield near Western Kentucky University, had a number of concerns with the cost of the University of Pikeville coming into the state university system.

Under the bill, the University of Pikeville would work with local school districts in the 8th grade to get all students committed to complete high school and go to college. The program would include working with school counselors to educate students about the fact that in today’s economy they need to go to college, they can afford to go to college and they can succeed in college.

Other goals would include the establishment of an extension campus in every county in the Southeastern Kentucky Educational Attainment District.

About Don Weber

Don Weber joined cn|2 when it launched back in May 2010 and soon became a reporter for Pure Politics. He is a graduate of Northern Kentucky University and has spent many years covering everything from politics to sports. Don says he loves meeting new people everyday as part of his job and also enjoys the fact that no two days are the same when he comes to work. Don Weber can be reached at donald.weber@charter.com.

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