State financial aid to AIKCU students accounts for less than 5 pct. of state postsecondary spending

Grant aid to AIKCU students is less than 5 pct. of state postsecondary spending

Grant aid to AIKCU students is less than 5 pct. of state postsecondary spending

Kentucky’s student financial aid programs are a crucial source of funds for Kentucky students attending Kentucky nonprofit, private colleges and universities. In fiscal 2012, AIKCU students received over $56 million in lottery-funded grant aid from the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) through Kentucky’s “Big 3” aid programs: the need-based College Access Program (CAP), need-based Kentucky Tuition Grant (KTG), and the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES).

State student aid is a part of the affordability equation that also includes students, the federal government, and AIKCU institutions themselves, who provide more than $220 million in financial aid from their own budgets each year. While it’s incredibly important, the $56 million that AIKCU students receive in state aid equals less than 5% of the more than $1 billion in overall state spending on postsecondary education.


50 pct. of AIKCU undergrads received Pell Grants in 2011-12; higher on many campuses

While Pell Grants are exempt from the automatic federal budget cuts that just went into effect, at least for the first year, we are very concerned about the future of the program and continue to concentrate the bulk of our federal advocacy efforts in support of Pell.

Every February we receive a wealth of data about federal student aid distributions to students at Kentucky institutions from the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Every year we compare that data against enrollment data provided by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education to analyze the percentage of our students who are eligible for federal Pell Grants.

While there is a common misperception that rich kids go to private colleges, the data shows that in reality AIKCU members serve very high percentages of students from low-income families. In 2011-12 more than 14,500 AIKCU students, or 50 percent of all undergraduates, received Pell Grants. 

The graph below is one we’ve showcased before highlighting our campuses that serve the highest percentages of Pell recipients.

Pell 2011-12.010


AIKCU degree production continues to climb: up 13 percent over previous year, 66 percent over 10 years

AIKCU Degrees, 2003 to 2012

The total number of degrees awarded by AIKCU member institutions continued its steady climb in 2011-12, according to final degrees awarded data recently released by the Council on Postsecondary Education.

Overall degrees awarded by Kentucky’s 20 nonprofit, private colleges during the 2011-12 academic year rose by 13 percent over 2010-11, from 7,024 to 7,927. Bachelor’s degrees increased by 4.3 percent to 4,620, while master’s degrees rose by 32 percent to 2,408.

From 2002-03 to 2011-12, the total number of degrees awarded annually by AIKCU members rose from 4,765 to 7,927, a 66 percent increase. During that same 10 year period bachelor’s degrees increased by 30 percent and master’s degrees by 212 percent.

AIKCU Degrees, 2003 to 2012

Average student loan debt of 2011 graduates

Last month the Project on Student Debt recently released its annual report outlining national and state-by-state trends in student loan borrowing, Student Debt and the Class of 2011.

Graph - Student Loan Debt Class of 2011

Nationwide, students who borrowed to finance their education graduated with an average of $26,600 in student loans. The picture is a little bit better for students graduating from Kentucky’s public universities and nonprofit, private colleges universities. Graduates of Kentucky’s public universities had an average debt of $24,111 in 2011. While higher percentages of students attending private colleges borrowed for college, their average debt was actually lower at $22,012. The report includes information for 14/20 AIKCU member institutions and all 8 Kentucky public universities. See an interactive map and download the data at

See also

Class of 2010 loan debt (

New Report on Student Debt and the Class of 2011 (


Online learning grows at AIKCU institutions

The November Council on Postsecondary Education meeting focused on the efficiency and innovation metrics of Stronger by Degrees, the strategic plan for postsecondary education in Kentucky. Some of the indicators within the efficiency and innovation metrics include the utilization of online learning. (Slides from the CPE meeting, including statewide data on online learning, are available here.)

While it hasn’t been embraced by all of Kentucky’s nonprofit private colleges, online learning is clearly on the rise among AIKCU institutions. As this graph indicates, online courses accounted for only 1.5 percent of all credit hours awarded by AIKCU institutions in 2005. By 2011, the percentage of credit hours completed online rose to 12.2 percent.

AIKCU 2012-13 average costs 30 percent lower than national private college average

The College Board recently released the 2012 edition of its annual Trends in College Pricing report. While there’s a lot of great data in the report, most coverage (like this article from focused on the fact that, as NAICU reported for private colleges earlier in October, college tuition continues to increase but at lower rates than in the past.

The average sticker price at four-year, nonprofit private colleges and universities increased by 4.2% from 2011-12 to 2012-13, according to the College Board’s Trends report. According to our own internal survey, AIKCU institutions were in line with the national average, with a 4.4% average increase. Public 4-year universities across the nation saw a slightly higher average increase at 4.8%.

What didn’t come out in the headlines is the variation of college costs, even within the same sector. As the graphic below illustrates, AIKCU members continue to offer tremendous value when compared to their peer institutions both within the South and across the nation. AIKCU members’ average published tuition and fees are 28% lower than the national nonprofit private college average. When you factor in room and board, AIKCU members’ total average costs are 30% less than the national average.

In any discussion of tuition and college costs it’s important to remember that very few students pay the full published tuition and fees, or sticker price. Half of AIKCU undergraduates receive Pell Grants and nearly all first-time, full-time students receive at least some financial aid. Prospective students should always check out an institution’s net price calculator.


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.

Independent colleges among Kentucky’s top private employers

Anyone who lives near a private college in Kentucky likely realizes that these small schools are major employers. Their economic impact is felt daily in small towns like Campbellsville, Barbourville, Georgetown, and many other communities across the Commonwealth.

What may be less evident is the major role that these small colleges play in the bigger state employment picture. Kentucky’s 20 nonprofit colleges and universities collectively employed 4,587 full-time faculty and staff in 2009-10 (and employed more than 6,400 people total). That would make the independent college sector the 6th largest private employer in Kentucky, according to a 2011 report by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.


Updated for 2010-11: AIKCU institutions with the highest percentages of Pell recipients

Updated: March 1, 2012 with new 2010-11 Pell data

If you’ve been a regular visitor to you’ve likely seen this graphic or some version of it before. However, it’s something we feel can’t be emphasized enough, particularly in light of the current budget negotiations and our efforts to thank Congress for federal student aid.

Pell Grants, the federal grants reserved for the neediest students, play a critical role in helping students attend independent colleges and universities in Kentucky. When combined with a student’s own resources, institutional financial aid, state financial aid, student loans, and other aid sources, Pell makes college possible for large numbers of students who might otherwise not attend or who would struggle to afford a quality education.

In 2010-11, 50 percent of all AIKCU undergraduates received federal Pell grants. That’s up from 2009-10, when about 45 percent of all AIKCU undergraduates relied on Pell to help pay for part of their college costs. (We don’t have the full data for 2010-11 yet, but our friends at the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority have run the numbers and told us that the overall percentage of AIKCU undergraduates receiving Pell increased again last year to right at 50 percent.)

While our campuses are diverse and their Pell percentages range from around 20 to more than 80 percent, there are 12 AIKCU institutions where more than half of undergraduates receive Pell. This graphic shows those AIKCU institutions with the highest percentages of Pell recipients.


The more than 14,000 AIKCU students who receive Pell each year need you to speak up and tell your elected officials to protect Pell and other forms of federal aid, including student loans. If you’re on one of our campuses, pick up a thank you card and write a quick note to your senators and representative. Make sure you also sign the  Student Aid Alliance’s Statement to Save Student Aid.

If you are or were one of those Pell recipients, we’d love to hear from you. Let us know in the comments why Pell is important to you, or post to our Facebook page.

State financial aid to AIKCU students, 1998-2011

This being a budget year for the General Assembly, we’ll be talking a lot about Kentucky’s state financial aid programs here on the site over the next few months.

As private colleges, AIKCU institutions receive no direct funding from the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Private college students are, however, eligible for the state’s three major financial aid programs: the need-based College Access Program (CAP), the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES), and the Kentucky Tuition Grant (KTG), the need-based tuition equalization grant for students attending private colleges. (Students are also eligible for some additional smaller aid programs.)

The roughly $54 million our students receive through these three programs is critical for those students and their families. It’s also a great deal for the state in a time of scarce resources. The state’s investment in financial aid to AIKCU students represents less than 5% of the state’s overall spending on higher education.

This graphic illustrates how financial aid to AIKCU students grew dramatically from 1998 to 2006 before essentially flattening out.