Last updated: February 05. 2014 9:13AM - 635 Views
Bruce Schreiner Associated Press

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FRANKFORT (AP) — Students at Kentucky’s two-year schools would pay a fee to help finance nearly $200 million of proposed construction, touted as the biggest investment in the colleges since the system’s formation.

The proposed student fee would eventually amount to $8 per credit hour taken, Kentucky Community and Technical College System President Michael McCall said Monday.

For students taking 15-hour class loads in a semester, the fee would amount to $120.

At a news conference to promote the construction proposal, McCall said officials were looking at phasing in the fee — starting at $4 per credit hour this fall, then reaching $8 per credit hour the following year.

KCTCS, formed in the late 1990s, spans 16 colleges on 73 campuses with a combined enrollment topping 92,000. It has avoided assessing mandatory student fees, unlike many other colleges and universities.

“This would be the first time,” McCall said. “It would be a capital fee for all students. It’s just something we have never done, but we believe now is the time to do it.”

Students would benefit from the new and renovated buildings financed by the fee, he said.

The fee would back the issuance of $145.5 million in agency bonds that would pay for up to 75 percent of the construction projects.

Gov. Steve Beshear proposed issuing the agency bonds in his two-year state budget plan presented to lawmakers. Agency bonding means the schools would pay the debt service, with no state General Fund support. It would be the first time the two-year schools could tap into agency bonding to fund construction.

Overall, the plan calls for $194 million of construction projects — one at each of the system’s 16 colleges. The rest of the funding would come from local communities and other public or private sources.

The proposal requires approval from the General Assembly.

Beshear pitched the plan Monday with KCTCS campus presidents. The school presidents said they were confident they could raise the additional money needed from community, public or private sources.

The governor said the two-year schools play an increasingly important role in workforce development, but said the schools are lagging behind in building upgrades.

“KCTCS is one of our most important tools in building a stronger, more agile and adaptable workforce,” the governor said. “As our campuses have swelled with students, we haven’t been able to keep up with the system’s broad infrastructure needs.”

The last three biennial state budgets included no new capital improvements for KCTCS, he said.

Beshear proposed a 2.5 percent state budget cut for higher education in his budget plan. If enacted, it would follow cuts amounting to 15 percent over the last three biennial budgets.

McCall said officials don’t know what tuition rates will be for the next academic year. He said it depends on the final budget figures for KCTCS schools.

“We certainly are concerned about the operating costs that will continue to go up,” he said.

Beshear said the construction proposal would help offset the proposed cutback for the two-year schools.

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