8 April 2016
As Kentucky lawmakers work to settle on a budget by April 15, the Executive Committee of the College Personnel Association of Kentucky (CPAK), a chapter of ACPA—College Student Educators International, wishes to highlight the importance of public funding for higher education in the state of Kentucky. As it stands today, Governor Matt Bevin is requesting that Kentucky’s legislature cut funding for higher education by 4.5% before June 30 and another 4.5% by June 30, 2017. While both the House and Senate determined their own versions of the budget, Governor Bevin and the two legislative branches still do not agree on what funding should look like in the immediate future. The CPAK Executive Committee hopes that this letter will inform that decision.
In 1997, the Postsecondary Education Improvement Act (House Bill 1 [HB1]) established important higher education goals to be reached by 2020 for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Those goals were to create a well-educated and highly trained workforce with the skills to meet the needs of new and existing industries, to generate competitive businesses and industries in a global economy, to improve the employability of Kentucky citizens and to achieve a standard of living for Kentucky citizens in excess of the national average. Kentucky higher education has been working towards those goals ever since by providing quality, lucrative education to any citizen who desires it. However, without funding from the state, Kentucky institutions of higher education will be forced to reduce their services and thus the quality of education Kentucky citizens receive.
Research has shown that an investment in higher education is an investment in Kentucky’s economy and quality of life. Citizens who earn a Bachelor’s degree earn, on average, $29,000 more per year than citizens with a high school diploma. 75% of family-supporting jobs in Kentucky require a postsecondary education. Clearly, for Kentucky citizens to function above the poverty line, higher education plays a key role. Unfortunately, Kentucky is one of only a handful of states that has not begun to reinvest in higher education since the end of the recession. The Governor’s proposed budget reductions will put Kentucky further behind and significantly impact our ability to produce the highly-skilled workforce necessary for our citizens to maintain a reasonable quality of life. It will also impact Kentucky’s ability to compete for new business and industry and the expansion of existing companies. Kentucky businesses agree on this, too. There are already over 300 Kentucky businesses from the Clark Oil Company to General Electric (GE) to the Norton Cancer Center who oppose budget cuts to Kentucky higher education. These businesses understand what they need in employees: college degrees.
We need the General Assembly to reinvest in higher education so we can continue to meet the goals set out in 1997 of improving the quality of life and employability of the citizens of the Commonwealth. To do so, the CPAK Executive Committee asks the legislature to: maintain the current state appropriations to higher education; delay implementation of a performance funding model in the 2016-18 biennium and instead create a work group to define performance metrics and a fair distribution method for future state appropriations; and support state-funded scholarships for students that help them move through the postsecondary education process quicker and more affordably.
The CPAK Executive Committee has faith in Kentucky’s state government and hopes that we can partner to achieve our shared higher education goals without resorting to drastic budget cuts. We hope our legislators can see this as a call to action. The citizens of Kentucky, especially those serving our higher education institutions, are speaking up and telling you that higher education is valuable. We hope that you will continue to act in accordance with your constituents’ wishes.
For CPAK members and all those who are serving students through higher education, this is also a call to action. Please consider contacting your legislator in the next week to make your voice heard (information here: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/messages/mailform.aspx or http://www.lrc.ky.gov/Lrcpubs/GA%20Directory%202015.pdf). Recent research shows that when legislators’ are contacted by their constituents, they are about 12 percentage points more likely to support the relevant legislation. You speak for our students and your voice matters.
On behalf of the CPAK Executive Committee,
Taylor McGovern U’Sellis
CPAK: ACPA KY
Cindi Love, Ed.D.
ACPA—College Student Educators International