Editorial: Why tuition taxes?
4/24/2008 Louisville Courier-Journal
The Council on Postsecondary Education should do what its president, Brad Cowgill, suggests -- focus seriously, and skeptically, on the tuition increases being promoted at Kentucky's public colleges and universities.
It's a refreshing change to have the CPE do something meaningful. Especially welcome is Mr. Cowgill's focus on the 13 percent tuition hike that the Kentucky Community and Technical College System wants. KCTCS has boosted its rates some 151 percent over the past 10 years, making them 26 percent higher than the national average for community colleges.
This system's students are particularly vulnerable. Many come from lower income homes. Often they're the first in the family to attend college. They barely scrape together enough cash for tuition, scrimp on living expenses, work multiple jobs and somehow squeeze their college classwork into a crowded schedule. They're especially hard hit when tuition keeps going up.
What CPE really should do is reject all the proposed tuition increases, thereby creating a financial crisis on state campuses and forcing Gov. Steve Beshear to call a special session, during which the General Assembly could pass at least a 75-cent-per-pack increase in the state's cigarette tax -- something it should have had the guts to do during the 2008 regular session.
The problem is, Senate President David Williams might be content with his usual answer -- a little more belt-tightening. The Governor couldn't do a thing about that, since Mr. Williams controls the Frankfort agenda. So calling a special session might make a bad situation worse.
Make no mistake about it. These institutions need the money they're asking for in new tuition revenue -- all of it, and more. If they got stuck with the 6 percent cuts already imposed this year, by Mr. Beshear and the General Assembly, that would set Kentucky higher education back a far piece.
What's needed is more state revenue, not only in higher education but across the state budget -- not just now, through a cigarette tax boost, but consistently, over time, through a modernization of the state's tax system.
These tuition hikes are just tax increases in disguise, imposed on some of those least able to pay.