- Associated Press - Friday, May 9, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - It will likely cost more than $10,000 per year for students who live in the state to attend Kentucky’s largest public universities in the fall.

The University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky boards of trustees approved tuition hikes of 5 percent for in-state students this week. It was the maximum increase allowed by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, which must give final approval to all tuition increases.

Leaders at the other public universities are considering at or near the maximum tuition increases. The increases come after the state legislature approved a 1.5 percent budget cut for higher education. And they come as Democrats and Republicans battle for control of the House of Representatives.

The increases are already an issue in the 2015 governor’s race. Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway made higher education part of his platform when announcing his candidacy earlier this week.

“Kentucky must lead in higher education. We must stop pricing the cost beyond the reach of many families,” Conway said in a video announcing his candidacy.

University of Louisville trustees approved a 5 percent tuition increase on Thursday that pushed the cost of attending the school to $10,236 for in-state students. University of Kentucky trustees followed on Friday with a 5 percent tuition increase. That pushed a full year of tuition for in-state students to $10,464 for those in their first and second years of school; those in at least their third year will pay $10,768 annually.

“We’ve taken a hit after hit from state funding, and our costs continue to rise. Our needs, therefore, kind of dictate that we unfortunately have to pay for this place through increased tuition rates,” said Britt Brockman, chairman of the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees.

But Irina Voro, one of two faculty representatives on the university’s board of trustees, criticized the tuition increase as unfair to students.

“I don’t buy the usual (explanation) that our state is shortchanging our university and we have to raise our tuition,” she told board members during Friday’s meeting, adding that tuition increases have outpaced state budget cuts since 2000.

Republican state Sen. David Givens, a member of the Senate education and budget committees, said the legislature did help curb tuition increases in some ways. For example, the legislature said fee increases at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System had to count toward the institutions’ tuition increase.

“I think if you take a broader snapshot you will see we are in line with the Southern states with regard to state funding for higher (education),” Givens said.