Hayley Haning was flying a plane every day by the time she was 14, long before she learned to drive a car.
By the time she was 18, she was in flight classes in her native West Virginia, and the now-21-year-old aviation major has earned her instrument-rate private pilot certificate. Haning said Eastern’s aviation program is the best she had seen, and she wanted to be a part of it.
However, her degree leading to a commercial pilot license will cost her $51,690, which is more than the standard EKU tuition.
“I think that the expenses the aviation department sets for students are way too high, but it isn’t just at EKU that costs are extremely high,” Haning said. “Almost all flight schools charge extreme fees too high to afford, not just EKU. With the growing demand of pilots, I believe a course of action will have to be taken.”
EKU’s aviation department is the only self-funded department within the university, but also has the highest fees for students. Aviation Assistant Professor Greg Wilson said aviation classes require significantly more equipment and supplies than other programs. In other classes, students don’t have to pay for an airplane, gasoline and insurance. Therefore, each aviation student must pick up the extra costs.
The Eastern Kentucky University Student Program and Course Fees 2015-16 Operating Budget lists the costs for all department course fees and expenses that students have to pay. An average aviation student has to pay a flight fee for every lab, a course fee and an insurance fee.
The most expensive aviation course has a $9,300 fee, while the lowest flight fee is $150. In addition to the flight fee for the labs, the student must pay the cost of the course fee which ranges from a high of $260 to a low of $30. That makes the average cost for a student to pay for a course plus a lab a total of $4,096.51, plus an insurance fee of $3,120.
EKU houses Kentucky’s only Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved university flight program, allowing students to earn FAA certification as a private pilot, commercial pilot and certified flight instructor. Students must log between 250 and 300 flight hours through the Madison Airport, managed by EKU.
“Since we are an FAA program, each student has to pay to take written exams and have check rides in order to pass tests that allow them to move up a level in their aviation career,” Wilson said, “but, that also adds another expense on the students because each exam and ride costs around $600 total, and on average, a student will have to pay that four times before graduating.”
The academic common market allows students like Haning from surrounding states to pay the in-state tuition rate. Nevertheless, the expenses added up still make it almost impossible for her family and many others to afford the program.
A total 175 aviation students currently are enrolled in two concentrations: flight and managerial. According to Wilson, 135 students are in the flight path and 40 are managerial students.
In 2009, Eastern’s aviation program received the 2009 Aviation Achievement Award, and recently won the “Top Hawk” award for having an outstanding aviation program and was awarded with a new plane for their program.
“We have a 100 percent graduation rate,” Wilson said. “Eastern is the only program of its kind in Kentucky that provides the aviation industry with the most managers and fully trained pilots today.”