OPINION: Higher Ed Workers Highlight Harms of State Disinvestment With Release of New Report

Contributor: The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy 

Opinions of Contributors are soley theirs alone and do not represent the views of ClayCoNews

Workers at Kentucky’s public colleges and universities are struggling with the effects of longer term disinvestment, two decades of per-student funding cuts and the institutional challenges that come with them, several workers said on a call with reporters Wednesday.

“I started at UofL in 2018, and since then, I've felt the pressure of low investment,” said Elise Franklin, an assistant professor of history at the University of Louisville. “This low investment directly impacts me and my colleagues, and central to our mission, it affects the students. Everyday we all show up and invest in UofL and I think it’s time for the state to help UofL invest in us.”

The call marked the release of “When Higher Ed Is a Lower Priority: Kentucky Campus Workers Sound the Alarm,” a new report produced in collaboration between the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy (KyPolicy) and United Campus Workers of Kentucky, Communications Workers of America (UCWKY-CWA).

The report was produced after surveying 1,367 public postsecondary staff and faculty from all eight of Kentucky’s public universities and its community college system. Using survey results and the words of campus workers, the report provides a window into how funding pressures and unwise public policy decisions have affected public postsecondary education in Kentucky.

Among the survey’s notable findings are:

  • Over half (53%) of respondents selected pay as the top concern with their job, with nearly one in three respondents saying they have not received a pay raise in the past year and two in three selecting pay as the number one consideration as to whether they will leave their job.
  • 66% of respondents said their department is understaffed, and three quarters (77%) said staffing levels are worsening or not getting better. 
  • Seven in 10 respondents said they have considered leaving in the past year for reasons other than retiring.
  • 58% of respondents said the challenges they face are leading to critical programs or services being scaled back or cut altogether.

The report also includes policy recommendations for the 2024 General Assembly, including:

  • Prioritizing restoring public postsecondary appropriations from the legislature to inflation-adjusted pre-2008 levels.
  • Rectifying the inequities arising from the performance funding model.
  • Allocating funding for significant salary adjustments.
  • Supporting the formation of unions by staff and faculty.

While respondents repeatedly described the value they place on their work, and the importance of the role they play in their communities and throughout the commonwealth, many are at a breaking point. Both the General Assembly and university administrators have a role to play in turning Kentucky’s public higher education system around. The staff and faculty of our universities and community colleges have sounded the alarm, it's up to policy makers to heed it.

Read the full report here


Kentucky Center for Economic Policy

433 Chestnut Street, Berea, KY 40403

859-756-4605  |  Information and inquiries: 

The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization conducting research, analysis and education on important policy issues facing the Commonwealth. For more information, please visit KyPolicy’s website at  www.kypolicy.org.


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