Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

May 3, 2014

OUR VIEW: Students must take advantage of cost-cutting opportunities

Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — The Council on Postsecondary Education gave its approval this week to a plan that would allow state universities to increase tuition as much as 8 percent over the next two years. Schools will decide individually how to implement the hikes, which are capped at 5 percent in either year, but it’s probably a foregone conclusion that a college education in Kentucky will soon be (even more) frustratingly expensive.

Assuming both the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville increase tuition the maximum 8 percent, in-state tuition at both institutions would be more than $20,000 annually in the 2015-16 school year, according to the Courier-Journal. That means a Kentucky resident could pay at least $80,000 for a bachelor’s degree at UK or U of L, which is staggering.

State funding for higher education has consistently dropped for years, forcing universities to turn to students and their families to make up as much of the deficit as is reasonable. And students often must turn to loans in order to pay tuition bills, creating an immediate financial disadvantage upon graduation.

It’s a vicious cycle that doesn’t appear to be slowing down. And it probably won’t unless the higher education bubble bursts, which at this point seems more likely than not to happen eventually.

The good news is that high school students have opportunities to soften the funding blow, if they’re willing to put in the work. Advanced Placement courses, which are as plentiful as ever in this area, are designed to enhance students’ college readiness and worthiness for scholarship money, and some universities grant credits for AP scores.

And on Thursday, the Western Kentucky University-Glasgow campus hosted students from eight area high schools – Glasgow, Barren County, Adair County, Edmonson County, Green County, Metcalfe County, Monroe County and Hart County – who are capitalizing on dual-credit offerings between the institutions. Not only are the dual-credit courses significantly cheaper, but students get a head start on bachelor’s degree requirements. As WKU President Gary Ransdell told attendees Thursday, dual-credit courses could lead to early graduation – which, in light of ever-rising tuition, could save a bundle.

It’s unwise to merely hope postsecondary costs will soon return to reasonable levels. Because they probably won’t. So the best approach for college-bound students is to be proactive – start looking now for ways to cut long-term costs and take advantage of as many of them as possible. The effort will pay off, literally.