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AIKCU President Mason Dyer talks about independent higher ed in Kentucky
AIKCU busy tracking new legislation, FAFSA form rollout,
enrollment gains

By AIKCU President Mason Dyer

March 20, 2024

This has been a busy winter for the AIKCU team.

In the policy arena, we’ve connected campus leaders with state and federal elected officials to talk about issues facing our students and institutions. Of course, we’re closely watching the General Assembly, with a particular interest in student financial aid funding.

Recently released Fall 2023 enrollment data shows that students and families continue to recognize the value proposition offered by Kentucky’s independent colleges and universities. While strong recruitment of new students is crucial to this success, the post-pandemic rebound also validates the excellent work of AIKCU faculty and staff to increase student success and retention. Bravo.

The new FAFSA rollout has introduced new challenges and uncertainty to the enrollment environment, but we’re thankful to our partners at CPE and KHEAA who collaborated with us to help spread a message of patience and perseverance to students and families.

There is nothing like spring on a small college campus, and I’m looking forward to getting back out to visit AIKCU members over the next few months.

Kentucky Lottery-funded financial aid programs important to students at AIKCU member campuses

By AIKCU President Mason Dyer

Jan. 8. 2024

With so much happening at the state and federal levels that impact independent higher education, I was grateful for the tremendous response from our members to our inaugural AIKCU Winter Meeting on State & Federal Affairs.

While independent colleges and universities receive no direct state appropriations, Kentucky Lottery-funded student financial aid programs — in combination with federal and institutional aid — are tremendously important in helping our students access the high-quality education that our 18 member institutions provide.

In fact, more than half of AIKCU members now offer a promise or guarantee that a qualified low-income Kentucky resident will pay nothing out of pocket for tuition and fees. That’s possible thanks to the combination of private support that funds institutional aid, federal Pell grants, and the lottery-funded state aid programs.

We’re thankful for the consistent support the Kentucky General Assembly has provided for lottery-funded state financial aid programs over the years that helps make this possible.

The return on that investment is high. Last year, AIKCU member colleges and universities awarded a record number of bachelor’s degrees, at 5,252. Independent college graduates represent one out of every five bachelor’s degrees awarded in Kentucky, and many of these graduates obtain degrees in key workforce areas like teacher education, nursing, and other STEM+H degrees.

Independent colleges have the power to transform

By AIKCU President Mason Dyer

Nov. 3, 2023

On Feb. 1, I celebrated both my 18th anniversary at AIKCU and my first official day as president.

Stepping into this role is a great honor, and I thank our board of 18 member presidents for the confidence they’ve placed in me and our talented staff.

AIKCU is nonprofit, nonpartisan, and working every day to support our member institutions through advocacy and policy work, information sharing, convenings, cost-saving initiatives, and collaborative programs.

I remain invested in this work because I believe deeply in the transformative power of independent colleges. That belief is partly rooted in my own experiences with AIKCU institutions: as an undergrad Pell Grant recipient from a rural Kentucky high school, as an adult graduate student with a full-time job and a very full-time family, and now as a parent of children attending independent colleges.

That belief also comes from knowing the significant role AIKCU members play in Kentucky’s education ecosphere, like producing one in five bachelor’s degrees awarded in the state. It comes from working with campus staff and observing how, despite challenges,  they remain fo-cused on student success. And it comes from hearing students and graduates reflect on the life-changing opportunities our members provide.

Our private colleges are changing the trajectory of individuals, families, and communities. AIKCU is proud to support these efforts.

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