State limits UK tuition increase to 9 percent

Tuition for next year cannot exceed a 9 percent increase, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education decided yesterday.

The tuition cap is part of an annual recommendation package the CPE will present to the General Assembly when it convenes in January. The CPE’s budget proposal is a recommendation but the tuition cap is set.

“When the council sets its parameter, it will say ‘this is the total cap, the maximum you can raise tuition,’ ” said John Hayek, interim vice president of finance for the CPE.

For undergraduates at UK, a 9 percent tuition increase would mean Kentucky residents would pay an extra $325 each semester. In-state graduate students would pay about $345 more per semester.

For out-of-state students, undergraduates would pay about $680 more per semester and graduate students would pay $730 more per semester.

Last year, the CPE set the tuition cap at 9 percent, and UK increased tuition and mandatory fees the same amount. In 2005-06 the UK Board of Trustees approved a 12 percent increase, 3 percent less than the CPE cap of 15 percent.

UK’s Top 20 Business Plan calls for a 9 percent tuition increase every year through 2012, and a 4 percent increase every year after that through 2020.

UK Provost Kumble Subbaswamy declined to comment on what the exact tuition increases would be for 2008-09, saying it is still too early to have a detailed discussion on tuition.

The governor and the General Assembly set the final amount of state funding UK receives. The university must see if the funding amounts are changed in the budget process before potential tuition numbers are discussed, said UK spokesman Jay Blanton.

“I don’t think we would even want to speculate about potential tuition costs until sometime next year when we get a better sense of where the budget is heading,” Blanton said.

As part of its proposal, the CPE also recommended a $51 million increase in UK’s share of the state’s general-fund dollars — $9.5 million less than what UK President Lee Todd requested for the 2008-2010 General Assembly biennium budget.

If the CPE recommendation is approved by the General Assembly, UK would receive a $17.6 million increase over this year’s funds and a $15.8 million increase on top of that in 2009-10.

In presentations to CPE committees last month, Todd requested an additional $19.8 million for 2008-09 and $20.9 million on top of that for 2009-10.

In a statement released yesterday, Todd called the CPE proposal a “positive first step” in acquiring higher-education funding, and said funding UK’s Top 20 Business Plan is “essential.”

Blanton declined to comment on how UK would acquire more funding if the General Assembly approves the CPE’s recommendation.

Although the recommendation is less than what UK requested, Hayek said the university could acquire funding through special appropriations and other funding from the state over the course of the biennium.

But without outside funding to match the amount Todd has said UK needs, the university may be forced to raise tuition more than it would otherwise, Hayek said.

“There’s only a limited number of ways funding can be generated,” he said.

Lawmakers will make the final decision on how much funding UK will receive this spring.

“In the past couple of years, the CPE has made a recommendation, and the General Assembly has taken that as kind of guidance,” said state Rep. Bill Farmer, R-Lexington.

State Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, said the recommendations approved yesterday are the first step in a process that could be determined as late as April.

“We’re not a rubber stamp for the CPE,” Damron said.