College students and their parents can begin planning their budgets for the  2012-13 academic year. That’s because the Council on Postsecondary Education has approved ceilings on the amount tuition can be increased at the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, at the state’s regional universities and at the state community and technical colleges.

While most school have not announced their new tuition rates for the fall semester and individual schools have the power to approve lower increases than the maximum allowed, expect most, if not all, of the schools to approve the maximum increase in tuition they are allowed. After all, with the new state budget that will take effect July 1 reducing state funding for higher education by another  $62.6 million over the next two years, the schools have little choice but to ask students — or their parents — to pay more in tuition.

How much more? Well, the Council will allow UK and the U of L to hike tuition by 6 percent for the fall semester while the boards of regents at the regional universities — including Morehead State University — will be able to increase their tuition by up to 5 percent

 Students at the community and technical colleges — including Ashland Community and Technical College — have been approved for tuition increases of up to 4 percent.

U of L has already announced a proposed 6 percent increase, and UK said Friday it wants to do the same. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported the student representative on the Council on Postsecondary Education, Kirby O’Donoghue, was the only member to vote against the measure.

Every time a university or community and technical college increases its tuition, it becomes that much more difficult for students with modest means to afford to attend college. It is another obstacle in the path of Kentucky achieving its ambitious goal of greatly achieving its number of college graduates, something this state desperately needs to accomplish to be able to compete in the world economy. It also means many of those who do stay in school are likely to begin their careers deeply in debt and spend many years paying for their college education.

That being said, raising tuition between 4 percent and 6 percent is a whole lot more reasonable than the double digit tuition increases that were common in the early years of this century. Students who attended college in the first decade of this century saw their tuition increase by nearly 50 percent while they were in school. That made it that much more difficult to save for college.

While students and their parents are not likely to be happy about paying more for college, they should bear in mind it could have been much worse. Four percent to 6 percent is a whole lot less of an increase than the 12 percent to 15 percent hikes of just a few years ago.

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