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Smaller universities could gain more state funding through new bill

Anabel Peterman

The percentage of low-income Kentuckians enrolling in higher education has fallen by nearly 30% in the last five years. That’s according to a recent report from the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE). Many advocates said the change must start by providing resources to schools in lower-income communities, including regional universities like Morehead State.

The current performance-based funding model places a large emphasis on the total number of students and credentials awarded, which experts said inherently favors larger institutions. Senate Bill 191 makes key adjustments to the current statewide model, decreasing the weight of total school and enrollment size. More emphasis would be placed on student outcomes, including positive outcomes for minority and low-income students.

Aaron Thompson, President of the CPE, presented SB 191 to the Senate Education Committee last week alongside the bill’s sponsor, Republican David Givens. Thompson said the adjusted model aims to make funding more attainable for smaller institutions.

“Performance funding, as you all know, is not recurring. They get to use it, but it has to go back in the pot. This time, we’re making it just where KSU and Morehead and any of the small schools will have a real small-school adjustment. That would allow them to really build off their base where it’s at now,” said Thompson.

Thompson said even though overall college enrollment is up and debt is down, the decrease in low-income students attending postsecondary education is alarming.

“We know that we needed to focus on how we increase the impact, and it takes more effort, let me just be clear. Not a negative, just the truth, it takes more effort, more input on our campuses around student services, student support, academic services,” said Thompson, “To help our low-income students in many ways not only feel like they belong in college, but they have the resources to be successful in college.”

SB 191 also incentivizes schools to increase their enrollment of nontraditional students, or people entering postsecondary education at ages 25 through 64. The CPE aims for 60% of adults between 25-64 to have a postsecondary credential by 2030.

The bill was passed by the education committee and will move on to the full Senate.