KCTCS supports Stivers’ proposed review of Kentucky’s higher education system

by McKenna Horsley, Kentucky Lantern

FRANKFORT — Kentucky’s two-year college system supports Senate President Robert Stivers’ call for  a comprehensive review of higher education, says the system’s acting president.

Among the ideas Stivers wants considered: Leave technical education with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, while moving traditional academic subjects from the two-year colleges to regional four-year public universities.

Stivers also wants to look at the feasibility of opening a four-year public university in southeastern Kentucky. 

In a statement to the Kentucky Lantern, KCTCS Acting President Larry Ferguson said “the Kentucky Community and Technical College System was established by the General Assembly over 25 years ago, and the world has changed considerably since that time. So, we support this comprehensive review.” 

Ferguson said the system is “open to working” with both the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), which would conduct the comprehensive review under Stivers’ resolution, and with the state legislature.

KCTCS launched its own analysis, conducted by Huron Consulting Group, in December 2022 to review: 

Space utilization,Academic programming optimization,Financials and organization,Compensation and equity,Career framework to define career paths,Compensation compared to market and internal equity. 

“We’re open to working with CPE and the legislature to ensure we are efficient and effective in the delivery of higher education to nearly 100,000 students across Kentucky each academic year,” Ferguson said. 

On March 2, the Senate Education Committee gave a favorable response, 13-0, to Stivers’ Senate Joint Resolution 98, directing CPE to study the need for changes in higher education.

Stivers said the system was last given a major overhaul a couple of decades ago and has faced many changes since, including the rise of remote work and education. 

In a special session in 1997, then-Gov. Paul Patton pushed through what became the Kentucky Postsecondary Education Improvement Act of 1997.  It separated the community colleges from the University of Kentucky and combined them with 15 technical institutes, creating KCTCS, and also set lofty academic and research goals for the four-year universities.

Stivers told the committee last week that he has “no preconceived notions as to what this should be” but one goal: “And that is every child, every nontraditional or traditional student have all the things we talked about 25 years ago, accessibility, affordability, transferability, job preparedness.” 

A spokesperson for CPE said Thursday it is still reviewing the bill.

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Photo:  Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers wants recommendations on possibly restructuring higher education. (Photo for Kentucky Lantern by Arden Barnes)