Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:
Lexington Herald-Leader on University of Kentucky enrollment
Lexington’s pulse always quickens as students return in August, especially now with enrollment at the University of Kentucky expected to top 30,000 for the second year in a row.
Numbers won’t be final for a few weeks, but UK’s freshmen are expected to make up the largest class ever (5,250).
Their average ACT is as high or higher than any before (an expected 25.5). More of them than ever will come from outside Kentucky (37 percent).
And they’re more likely to leave UK with not just a diploma and some Wildcat garb but also substantial debt.
About 41 percent of UK graduates in 2013 had outstanding student loans. Their average debt was $25,102, according to the Institute for College Access & Success.
The national numbers were higher. Sixty-nine percent who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2013 had student loan debt, with a per borrower average of $28,400.
The White House reports that Kentucky has 604,000 borrowers with an outstanding balance of $14.4 billion on subsidized student loans, for an average balance of $23,915.
Financing college was simpler for the GIs who won World War II and their baby- boomer offspring. Public university tuition was so cheap that undergrads could pay for it with a full-time summer job and part-time work during school.
UK’s tuition has risen 85 percent over the last 10 years. In-state freshmen will pay tuition and fees of $12,029 for two semester; non-residents, roughly double that.
Actual out-of-pocket tuition costs for many will be lower, in some cases zero, depending on academic record and economic need.
Room and board ranges from $8,900 to $15,000 depending on how plush the digs and the meal plan.
Throw in books, travel and sundry expenses and you’re talking more than $100,000 for four years in Lexington.
The steep rise in tuition is generally blamed on declining state support, here and around the country.
There’s also a growing school of thought - ranging from Bill Bennett, the education secretary under President Ronald Reagan, to President Barack Obama - that the limitless increases in college tuition are fueled by the limitless availability of federally backed student loans.
How to make college affordable again is already a hot topic in the 2016 presidential race.
Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders want to lower or eliminate student costs by putting more federal dollars into higher education - Sanders by taxing Wall Street transactions and Clinton by limiting tax deductions for the wealthy.
Democrats also are calling for allowing student debt to be refinanced at lower rates.
But others who have studied the problem say that refinancing would help those who have borrowed the most, usually to fund medical educations, and whose future incomes will allow them to easily repay the loans.
The few dollars that borrowers of smaller amounts would save through refinancing will not help them repay even their modest debts because they’re in low-paying jobs. What they need is repayment based on income.
Meanwhile, Republicans in the House have voted to roll back need-based Pell Grants and Obama’s expansion of student-loan forgiveness measures.
It’s all pretty complicated. So, in addition to decorating dorm rooms and quaffing caffeine in the largest Starbucks on any college campus, UK’s millennials and their families should also be tuning in to presidential politics.
Glasgow Daily Times on Sen. Rand Paul’s proposal for presidential caucuses
Even if U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Bowling Green, foots the bill for his proposed presidential caucuses, his motivation - to skirt a state law that prohibits candidates from appearing twice on a ballot - should not sit well with Kentuckians.
If Kentucky holds Republican presidential caucuses - where voters gather in person to choose a candidate - instead of the traditional primary, it opens the door for Paul to pursue his presidential ambitions while simultaneously seeking a second term as a senator. Kentucky’s senior U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said this week he supports Paul’s plan and expects the Republican Party of Kentucky’s Central Committee to approve the caucuses this weekend, according to The Courier-Journal.
This seems like a lot of unnecessary fuss over a candidate whose presidential campaign is so inert that some wonder whether Paul will be among the first of the GOP throng to drop out of the race. There’s a long way to go, of course, but Paul already has a ton of ground to make up and the political momentum he enjoyed in recent years is sputtering.
Kentucky Republicans would be able to select whatever candidate they choose in the proposed caucuses, but since Paul’s aspirations and money are at the center of the push, it is reasonable to feel that Paul is attempting to buy the state’s delegation.
The state law banning dual candidacy is a good one. If the rule is a problem for Paul, so be it. He is not entitled to seek both the Senate and the White House at the same time, so rather than forking over cash to find a loophole, Paul needs to make a tough decision - ordinary Americans make them every day, and frankly, making hard calls is part of the job description for senators and presidents alike.
Kentucky New Era, Hopkinsville, on Kentucky Coal Association meeting with gubernatorial candidates
The members of the Kentucky Coal Association want a private audience with the two major-party gubernatorial candidates, and it looks like they will get it. Democrat Jack Conway confirmed he’ll attend a closed-door meeting with the association in October. Republican Matt Bevin has not confirmed if he’ll be there - but he attended another private session with the state’s coal executives in June, so it seems likely he’ll be back in October.
The coal group can handle its meetings any way the members choose. However, the candidates are intentionally avoiding public scrutiny on energy issues that ought to be front and center for this election. It would be in the best interest of voters, and the state overall, for the candidates to insist on a public meeting.
The president of the Kentucky Coal Association, speaking recently to a political program for cable station CN2, downplayed the lack of transparency.
“When you meet with candidates who are seeking an executive position like this, you want them to be very unfiltered in their discussions,” Bill Bissett said. “And like it or not, these are folks running for office. Every word they say is analyzed and critiqued . you want to hear from them directly.”
Indeed, we would like to hear what Conway and Bevin would tell people who own and run mines that they can’t tell voters.
Both candidates are pro-coal. There’s no doubt about that. Bevin is a strong critic of President Barack Obama, and that includes the president’s energy policies. Conway, in his role as attorney general, has sued the Environmental Protection Agency over Obama’s programs to reduce carbon emissions.
The problem with a closed-door meeting between the candidates and the representatives of the coal industry is that it pushes the public out of a discussion about the future of the state.
Of course, it is more difficult for the candidates to have news reporters present because they will ask follow-up questions that require explanation and accountability. Shutting out the public, and reporters who represent the public, frankly means that the candidates and the coal industry don’t want to account for certain topics that will be discussed.
Being transparent and accountable to voters is not the easy way to run a campaign. But it is what voters should expect.
Conducting a private session with an industry that has so much at stake is the wrong approach for the gubernatorial candidates.
Every Kentuckian is affected by coal and has an interest in knowing what the industry’s leaders want from the next governor.
By participating in a private meeting with coal executives, the candidates give the impression that they will not say in public what they will say in a private meeting with the coal executives.
Even though we know this kind of double-speak happens in campaigns, we still believe it is important to point out why it’s wrong and why voters should join the news media in expecting more transparency from the candidates.
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