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AIKCU president talks higher ed issues with legislators, public higher ed presidents on KET’s Kentucky Tonight

For Immediate Release
Contact: Leigh Anne Hiatt, Communications Specialist, 859.619.7916,

FRANKFORT, Ky., Sept. 27, 2023 — As colleges and universities across the commonwealth kick off the fall semester, AIKCU President Mason Dyer joined other guests to discuss the state of higher education on KET’s Kentucky Tonight Sept. 18.

Host Renee Shaw asked the panel to focus on what is and isn’t working 25 years after higher ed reform in Kentucky, including a look at enrollment, cost, state education funding, COVID’s impact on colleges and a U.S. Supreme Court decision on race-based admissions.

In addition to Dyer, the guests included Aaron Thompson, Ph.D., president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education; Robert L. “Bob” Jackson, Ed.D., president of Murray State University; David T. McFaddin, Ed.D., president of Eastern Kentucky University; state Sen. David P. Givens (R), president pro tempore; and state Sen. Gerald A. Neal (D), minority floor leader.

Dyer said that while Kentucky’s independent, private colleges face challenges, there is positive news.

“Enrollment nationally is a challenge for independent colleges,” Dyer said. “The perception of cost is a real stumbling block for a lot of folks. What people need to understand is that there is a lot of student aid out there and available once you fill out the FAFSA and go through the process.”

Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the form students can use to apply for federal financial aid for college or graduate school.

He said that a low-income Kentucky student who qualifies for a full federal Pell grant would also qualify for CAP, or the
Kentucky College Access Program grant. In addition, Kentucky Tuition Grants up to $3,300 are available to Kentucky residents who are full-time undergraduates at an independent college within the state who demonstrate financial need.

“That’s almost $16,000 in aid right off the top,” Dyer said, “and many of our institutions will go ahead and fill the rest of that gap in institutional aid, so they’re not paying any tuition at least."

(Note on financial aid: A number of AIKCU colleges and universities have established guarantees that a Kentucky resident who qualifies for all three of these programs – Pell, CAP and KTG – will have any remaining tuition covered through institutional aid sources. AIKCU members award about $400 million in institutional grants and scholarships annually, with a median award of nearly $18,000. About 40 percent of AIKCU undergraduates receive
federal Pell Grants; the maximum Pell award is now $7,395 per year. CAP is the Kentucky Lottery-funded, need-based program that provides up to $5,300 to Pell-eligible Kentucky residents attending four-year institutions. And students who earn KEES merit-based scholarships through their performance in high school can also take those awards to independent colleges.)

He also said there are also some challenges in attracting a qualified workforce, particularly on campuses located in rural parts of the state that are doing really good work but might find it hard to draw candidates to fill key roles.

“But overall, our members are strong,” Dyer said. “I think overall our freshman enrollment is up about 3%. My presidents tell me that there’s a lot of energy on campus, and things are much more normal, even more than they were last year.”

Watch the
entire episode of Kentucky Tonight on KET.

The Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities advances the interests of Kentucky's independent, nonprofit colleges and universities by promoting affordability and student success through policy advocacy, strategic partnerships and community engagement. Independent colleges play a critical role in the commonwealth’s postsecondary education system by serving more than 50,000 students and awarding 13,600 degrees annually. AIKCU’s 18 member colleges and universities are all accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and licensed by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.

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