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Private College Return on Investment

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The following post is from Gary S. Cox, President of the Association of Independent KY Colleges and Universities (AIKCU).

Positive return on investment. It's a measure often applied by decision-makers when deciding to increase support for an enterprise or activity. We in the private, non-profit college and university community embrace the concept. We just don't often report the positive return of the state's minimal investment in its private higher education partners. We promise to do better, starting now.

First, the basics. There are three types of postsecondary colleges and universities: taxpayer supported public universities and colleges, for-profit higher education businesses, and our sector - the state's non-profit colleges and universities. Kentucky's nineteen private, colleges and universities are members of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities -AIKCU. Members dot the landscape across the Commonwealth, serving the mountains, the urban areas in northern KY, Louisville, Lexington and Owensboro and the rural areas in communities like Campbellsville, Georgetown, Columbia and Springfield. Each is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the same body that certifies the state's public colleges and universities. Further, all academic programs are licensed by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.

Each Kentucky non-profit college and university offers bachelor's degrees and many offer master's and doctoral degrees. Members also produce a number of high-cost professional programs such as physical and occupational therapy, behavioral science, allied health, physician assistant and osteopathic medicine graduates. We communicate with state leaders about the changing workforce needs and quickly expand offerings to meet employer demand. Private colleges and universities have a true partnership with the Commonwealth.

The state's investment in our members is very modest. Taxpayer dollars do not support buildings and maintenance on these campuses, but rather only invest in student financial aid for enrolled Kentucky resident students. The most recent information puts the total investment in our students at $57 million. All but $28 million of that total would be invested in these students had they enrolled at a public college or university. The $28 million invested exclusively in our Kentucky students represents less than 3% of the $1.2 billion investment the state makes in postsecondary education.

Talk about a return on investment! Over 7 in 10 students are Kentucky residents and number over 36,000, including almost 29,000 undergraduates. We produce over 20% of the state's bachelor's degrees annually, including over 20% of these degrees in nursing, over 30% in math and statistics, over 27% in chemistry, over 30% in biology and biological sciences and over 20% in physics. We also graduate over 20% of the state's teachers.

The cost of attendance is reasonable. Our tuition charges, on average, are 25% less than the national average for our sector. We serve a substantial number of first generation students. About 50% of the students we enroll receive a Federal Pell grant provided to low-income students. Our members raise and provide over $250 million in student financial aid to students compared to the state's $57 million investment.

We also have measured our members' economic impact applying the same methodology used by the Commonwealth to assess the economic benefit of businesses seeking state incentives. The results are equally as positive, but that's a discussion for another day.

You can learn much more about our members and their programs by visiting our website at www.aikcu.org.

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