New Study Puts Kentucky Eighth For College Unaffordability

Oct 5, 2018

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A new study from the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities (CBPP) looks at state budgets cuts and college tuition hikes across the country over the past ten years.

Ashley Spalding, a senior policy analyst with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, an affiliate of the left-leaning CBPP, said the CBPP has tracked state funding for higher education for a decade, but new this year was a measure of college affordability based on a state’s median household income.

Researchers found that in Kentucky, the average tuition and fees at a public college or university make up 20.6 percent of median household income, the eighth highest in the country.  

That number is even higher for black and Hispanic families, at 27.7 and 23.7 percent of median household income respectively.

Spalding was not involved in the research, but she said comparing median income to the average cost of tuition and fees can provide a good picture of the true cost of college.

“If you were to just compare what our tuition looks like compared to tuition in other states, it might not look as high,” Spalding said. “But when you factor in what Kentuckians can afford to pay…this report does a great job of showing that Kentucky has a big college affordability problem.”

The CBPP study outlines a few policy proposals to address the high cost of college. These include a shift from merit-based to need-based financial aid for students and funding distribution to colleges and universities based on need instead of performance.

Spalding said, however, that Kentucky does not prioritize need-based aid and has introduced performance-based funding into its budget.