AIKCU members continue degree growth, award nearly 11,000 in 2018-19

degree chart


AIKCU member colleges and universities played an important role in the record year for Kentucky degrees and credentials recently announced by the Council on Postsecondary Education.

AIKCU degree production continued its upward trajectory in 2018-19, with AIKCU members awarding 10,926 total degrees and credentials.

This marked the first time that graduate degrees awarded by AIKCU member institutions (5,937) exceeded undergraduate (4,989), according to the Council on Postsecondary Education.

AIKCU members awarded 3.5% more bachelor’s degrees (for a total of 4,716) and 42.5% more graduate degrees in 2018-19 than in the previous year. Total degrees and credentials were up by 21.4%.

Over the last ten years, the number of degrees and credentials awarded by AIKCU members has increased by 66%.

For additional degree information, visit the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education Data Center

AIKCU average student loan debt lower than state, national averages

Class of 2015 Student Loan Debt bar chart

Class of 2015 Student Loan Debt bar chart

The Institute for College Access & Success’s Project on Student Debt has released its annual report on the status of student debt among America’s college graduates, Student Debt and the Class of 2015.

According to the report, 68% of students who graduated in 2015 from four-year public and nonprofit private colleges nationally graduated with student loan debt. The average loan debt for those who borrowed was $30,100, about 4% more than the previous year’s graduates.

The average loan debt for graduates of Kentucky institutions included in the report was $27,225, about 11% lower than the national average. Statewide, 64 percent of Kentucky students graduated with loans. Kentucky had the 32nd highest average student debt total among the states.

The average graduate debt at AIKCU institutions was even lower, at just under $25,000. [The median debt of AIKCU members was $27,291.] 12 of 18 AIKCU members were included in the report.

The average loan debt at Kentucky’s public universities was just over $28,000. 7 of 8 public universities were included in the report.

The TICAS report includes data voluntarily reported to Peterson’s for about 56 percent of the public and nonprofit colleges and universities in the U.S. The report does not include information about borrowing at proprietary institutions.

See the TICAS data for Kentucky institutions.

Chart: Return on Kentucky’s investment in private college students

Chart: ROI of KTG

Chart: ROI of KTG

AIKCU students receive about 2.4 percent of the more than $1 billion in state funds appropriated to postsecondary education in the form of the Kentucky Tuition Grant, the lottery-funded need-based financial aid program specifically for private college students. [AIKCU students may also qualify for the Kentucky College Access Program and Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship, but they would qualify for those even if they attended public institutions.]

In return for this small investment directly in private college students, AIKCU institutions enroll 21 percent of Kentucky’s undergraduates and produce 22 percent of Kentucky’s bachelor’s degrees. That’s an impressive return on the Commonwealth’s investment in private college students.

Learn more in AIKCU’s Annual Report to the Council on Postsecondary Education.

Student loan debt and the class of 2013 in Kentucky

Chart - Average loan debt class of 2013

While student loan debt is a serious issue for students and families, here in Kentucky the news is not entirely bad. According to the latest report from the Project on Student Debt, issued last week by the Institute for College Access and Success, Kentucky students’ average debt at graduation was $24,693 for the class of 2013. That is significantly lower than the national average of $28,400. About 59% of Kentucky graduates of four-year public and private colleges and universities had debt at graduation.

Contrary to what some might expect, the average debt was even lower at Kentucky’s private nonprofit colleges and universities. The average debt of 2013 graduates was only $21,265 at the 12 AIKCU member institutions for which data is available. At the institutional level, AIKCU graduates’ average debt ranged from $6,652 to $31,347.

The average debt for 2013 graduates of Kentucky’s eight public universities who borrowed was a little higher at $25,997, but still well below the national average.

Of course, context always helps when thinking about student loan debt and the potential return on investment of borrowing to finance an education. For another way to think about student loan debt, check out “Student Debt vs. Car Loans” on


AIKCU members’ average tuition, tuition increases lower than national averages

AIKCU 2014-15 Average Tuition Graph

AIKCU member institutions continue to fare better than the national averages for private nonprofit colleges in terms of both average tuition and fees and average tuition increases.

The average published tuition and fees at AIKCU member institutions (excluding Alice Lloyd College and Berea College, both work colleges that guarantee tuition for all students) is $24,939 for the 2014-15 academic year. That is about 13 percent less than the average for private nonprofits in the South ($27,400) and 28 percent less than the national average ($31,231) for private nonprofit colleges, according to the College Board’s recently released Trends in College Pricing 2014.

AIKCU members’ published tuition and fees only increased by an average of 2.7 percent from 2013-14 to 2014-15. The College Board reports that published tuition and fees rose by 3.7 percent at private nonprofit colleges across the nation.

Of course very few students actually pay these “sticker prices.” The College Board report notes that nationally, full-time students at private nonprofit colleges receive an average of $18,870 in grant aid and federal tax benefits. Here in Kentucky, more than 98 percent of first-time, full-time AIKCU students receive financial aid.

Read the full Trends in College Pricing 2014 (PDF) or see coverage of the report in Inside Higher Ed.

Small colleges, big impact: AIKCU members add $618 million to Kentucky economy

Graph - Economic Benefits of AIKCU

Graph - Economic Benefits of AIKCU

Kentucky’s nonprofit private colleges add nearly $618 million to Kentucky’s economy each year, creating more than 10,400 jobs, according to a new study commissioned by the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities (AIKCU).

“Most people understand how important the private nonprofit colleges and universities are in Kentucky’s overall system of postsecondary education,” said Gary S. Cox, president of AIKCU. “After all, taken together our members educate more students than the state’s flagship university and produce a little more than 1 in 5 bachelor’s degrees awarded in Kentucky, with even larger percentages of bachelor’s degrees in fields like nursing and education. But sometimes the economic value these colleges and universities bring to the Commonwealth is less obvious. We hope this study helps folks see how important these small colleges are to Kentucky’s overall economy.”

The $618 million that Kentucky’s nonprofit, private colleges and universities add to Kentucky’s state gross domestic product (GDP) annually breaks down as follows:

Direct benefits: $354 million

  • $344 million in direct wages and benefits
  • 7,037 total employees (4,898 FT); average annual wage + benefits = $48,920

Indirect benefits (dollars spent with Kentucky businesses that continue to recirculate in Kentucky): $102 million

  • 1,166 Kentucky jobs exist because of AIKCU members’ operations.
  • Wages + benefits of these indirect jobs = $47+ million; average $40,600 annually

Induced benefits (response by Kentucky’s economy to direct and indirect): $162 million

  • 2,231 induced Kentucky jobs
  • Induced wages + benefits = $89 million; average annual wage + benefits = $39,370

In addition, Kentucky’s private colleges and universities generate another $108.5 million in tax revenues.

  • $27.5 million in estimated Kentucky state and local tax revenue (annual)
  • $81 million estimated federal tax revenue (annual). Approximately $51 million of the federal taxes are social insurance tax (primarily Social Security)

The study emphasizes the outsized return on investment Kentucky captures on its relatively small investment in student financial aid to private college students. Kentucky resident students attending Kentucky’s private nonprofit colleges are eligible for state financial aid and receive about $57 million in financial aid each year through programs administered by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA). That is less than 5% of Kentucky’s overall spending in support of postsecondary education.

In terms of the state’s return on that investment in students, the report notes:

“AIKCU’s member institutions provide both economic benefits and social benefits to Kentucky without direct state appropriations for the operation of these institutions. This may make the AIKCU’s member institutions one of the greatest economic and social bargains to the residents and taxpayers of Kentucky.”

The narrow methodology used by the objective outside consultant for this study is exactly the same methodology used by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development to evaluate companies seeking economic incentives from the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This is a much more conservative approach than the methods used by some other higher education economic impact studies.

While the numbers in the report are impressive, they are by no means a comprehensive evaluation of the broad array of economic, cultural and social impacts that AIKCU members provide. The conservative approach of this study excludes capital projects and focuses only on the economic benefits derived from the institutions’ annual operations, using 2011-12 employment and wage data reported to the National Center for Education Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

This study excludes many factors that are often included in more robust economic impact studies: the numerous benefits of increased human capital (increased wages, tax revenue, employment, etc.); student, alumni, and visitor spending; the economic impacts of auxiliary or cultural venues; research, grants, and the value of community service; direct and indirect economic benefits from capital construction projects; or the many social and cultural benefits that colleges provide to their communities. [A much more comprehensive AIKCU economic impact study published in 2006 estimated that AIKCU members had a $1.49 billion annual economic impact and that AIKCU alumni spending generated another $5.9 billion in economic activity.]

Download the complete AIKCU 2014 Economic Impact Statement

Note: The study includes data for Mid-Continent University, a former AIKCU member that ceased operations on June 30, 2014. Further analysis concluded that MCU was responsible for about $24.2 million of the overall economic impact attributed to the nonprofit private college and university sector.

AIKCU fall enrollments hold steady; cap a decade of strong growth

Graph - 2003-13 Fall Enrollment.001

Enrollments at Kentucky’s 20 nonprofit private colleges and universities held steady during the fall 2013 semester, according to a new report released this week by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. Statewide, AIKCU members enrolled 36,195 total students: 28,855 undergraduates and 7,340 graduate students.

While overall enrollments this fall were essentially flat for the second year in a row, AIKCU member institutions have seen a 41.8% increase in enrollment since 2003. During that 10-year period graduate enrollments have increased by 132.5%, from 3,157 in 2003 to 7,340 in 2013.

CPE reports that enrollments at Kentucky’s public four-year universities posted minor gains during the fall of 2013, while enrollments in the two-year Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) saw a 4.7 percent drop.

Read the CPE press release and view the report with detailed public sector enrollment data.

Report shows AIKCU member, Kentucky student debt lower than national average

The average student loan debt of students nationwide who graduated from four-year colleges and universities has increased to $29,400 and 71% of graduates had debt, according to the latest report from the Project on Student Debt at the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS).

Student Debt and the Class of 2012 includes national data for both federal and private student loans and state and institution-level data for public and nonprofit private institutions that voluntarily provide data. The Project on Student Debt notes that while for-profit colleges are included in the national average, they are not included in state figures because virtually none voluntarily provide student debt information.

Student Loan Debt Class of 2012.001

In Kentucky, the average student debt of $22,384 was 31% lower than the national average; 62% of Kentucky graduates had student debt. Among the AIKCU institutions included in the report, the average debt was $22,380. The average debt of Kentucky public university graduates in the report was $24,625. A higher overall average percentage of AIKCU graduates (70%) than public university graduates (57%) borrow.

The Project on Student Debt lists institutional level data for 12 of 20 AIKCU members and 7 of 8 Kentucky public four-year universities. Berea College and Campbellsville University are highlighted in the report as being among the colleges with the lowest average student debt nationally.

Despite the headlines about increasing college debt levels and the serious challenges facing students and families, graduates of both nonprofit private colleges and public universities in Kentucky have significantly lower debt than the national average. Kentucky is 9th on the list of “low-debt states,” and 30% of Kentucky private college graduates and 43% of public university graduates finished with no debt at all.

Read the full Student Debt and the Class of 2012 report or download state level data at

See also: 

Borrowers Average Debt at Graduation Climbs to $29,400 (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Average Student Debt Climbs, Again (Inside Higher Ed)



Fall 2011 AIKCU enrollment shows strong annual, 10-year growth

Back in the fall we reported that early estimates indicated that total AIKCU enrollments were approaching 36,000. Just recently, CPE provided us with the final, audited fall 2011 enrollment figures for Kentucky’s independent colleges. Now that the official numbers are in, it looks like our campuses blew that mark out of the water with a total combined enrollment of 36,230 students in the fall of 2011.

The most significant growth continues to be at the graduate level, where total enrollments increased by 12.1% over fall 2010 as new programs continue to come online and existing programs mature. Undergraduate enrollment growth was solid, with a 3.8% annual increase. Combined, AIKCU’s total enrollment grew by 5.3% between 2010 and 2011.

As the graph below shows, the 10-year trend provides an even more impressive story of growth in the independent sector. Since 2001, total AIKCU enrollment has grown by 46.3%, with a 31.7% increase in undergraduate enrollment and a whopping 179.1% increase at the graduate level.