By Ronnie Ellis, CNHI News Service Commonwealth Journal
Somerset Community College students will join their peers at community colleges across the commonwealth in paying more per hour beginning next fall, independent of any increases in tuition.
That assumes the General Assembly approves a plan to allow the Kentucky Community and Technical College System to finance construction projects at each of its 16 campuses through “agency bonds,” borrowing that will be financed by the colleges rather than through the state’s General Fund.
Students at the community colleges will for the first time be assessed a fee — ultimately $8 per credit hour per student — to help finance debt service on the bonds.
KCTCS President Michael McCall said Monday he expects the fee to be phased in over two years, beginning with a $4 fee in the fall of 2014 with an additional $4 on top of the first beginning in the fall of 2015.
Gov. Steve Beshear is proposing in the budget he’s submitting to lawmakers to allow KCTCS to fund $194 million of construction projects through a combination of $145.5 million from fees generated by the schools and the remaining 25 percent, or $48.5 million, coming from local, private investment. He and McCall, flanked by several of the campus presidents, Monday touted the proposal as “the single largest investment in the KCTCS system since it was founded in 1997.”
Among the projects are the $7.5 million renovation of the main building at Ashland CTC; $21 million for the first phase of constructing a new Postsecondary Center of Excellence at the Rowan County campus of Maysville CTC; and construction of a community intergeneration center in Jackson campus of Hazard CTC at a cost of $1.5 million.
The building at Ashland was built in 1967, McCall said, and is in sore need of renovation. Dr. Kay Adkins, CEO of Ashland CTC, said the renovation will also allow more energy efficiency.
“We are pleased to have the opportunity for this public-private partnership to be able to upgrade the original infrastructure of the College Drive Campus main building,” Adkins said. “These upgrades will not only make the campus more comfortable for our students, faculty and staff, but the buildings will be more energy efficient as a result of the upgrades.”
McCall and the presidents on hand all said they are confident they can raise the 25 percent private portion for each of their projects.
McCall said the proposal is “a perfect example of a public-private partnership and builds upon the strong connections our colleges have forged with their local business communities.” He said the debt won’t add to the cost of an education “in any meaningful way.”
Beshear said the construction proposal was a way to soften the impact of ongoing cuts to higher education. State funding for higher education has been cut 15 percent over the past six years and the governor is proposing another 2.5 percent cut for next year.
Tuition for KCTCS students this year is $144 per credit hour per student or $2,160 for 15 hours. That same student will have to pay an additional $60 next fall to cover the first $4 installment on the construction fee, making his tuition $2260 if tuition stays the same. The following year, he would have a $120 fee on top of tuition or a total of $2,280.
McCall and Dr. Robert King, President of the Council for Postsecondary Education, said no decision has been made about increasing tuition at community colleges next year. Data kept by the CPE indicates tuition at KCTCS campuses has increased 25.2 percent since Fiscal Year 2007/08 at an annualized rate of 3.8 percent.
During that same period, tuition at the state’s four-year public institutions has increased 36.9 percent or an annualized rate of 5.4 percent. Those data don’t include the multiple student fees charged by the four-year institutions.