Tuesday, November 06, 2001

Colleges request $1.2 billion

Schools push plan for 2003

The Associated Press and The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FRANKFORT — Gordon Davies, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education, said the budget proposed by the agency Monday is “ambitious but not extravagant.”

        It also may be unlikely.

        The council budget request of $1.2 billion in the 2003 fiscal year would gobble up more than a third of every new dollar the state expects next year and take a substantial percentage of expected growth the following year.

        Crit Luallen, secretary of the Cabinet for Gov. Paul Patton, said education will be a priority as the next budget is put together.

        “In the current environment, what that means is our first goal will be to try to just keep from cutting it at all,” Mr. Luallen said.

        Budget cuts last year and this have already amounted to more than $700 million as revenue to the General Fund has plunged. Mr. Patton has essentially spared funding for education from the ax.

        Mr. Davies told council members Monday that the budget for the coming two years will be critical to whether the state remains committed to the overhaul made in higher education in 1997.

        The council wants to add about $60 million to basic funding for the state's eight universities and the technical college system next year and another $35 million the following year.

        Northern Kentucky University would receive about $3.3 million for both the 2003 and 2004 fiscal years.

        Gerald Hunter, NKU associate vice president for financial planning, said that would raise state funding from $46.5 million to nearly $49.8 million in fiscal year 2003 and nearly $53.2 in 2004. NKU's education and general budget now totals $101 million.

        But Mr. Hunter said NKU is still underfunded in state money by about $26 million according to formulas the state uses.

        “We're so underfunded, it's going take years,” Mr. Hunter said Monday. “I'm not grousing; we're appreciative of this funding. This is a continuation.”

        Mr. Hunter said NKU is so underfunded because the state didn't provide much money when it was largely a commuter school in its early days, and couldn't in the 1980s and '90s when state money was low and NKU grew rapidly.

        Holmes High School Principal Bill Grein said about half his graduates go to either college or technical school.

        He said he would like to see more state money for technical schools.

        “From my perspective, I think we have a lot of people in Kentucky who aren't ready for a four-year (university) program,” he said.

        The council also wants to direct another $120 million to the universities — with UK and Louisville splitting $100 million of the total — for research grants under the program that has been dubbed “Bucks for Brains.” Significantly, the council budget request recognizes the likelihood the state will not have that much money in new cash and recommends instead the sale of a bond issue to be repaid over 20 years.

        New initiatives would be more money for need-based student aid and additional money for recruitment and retention of students.

        Council member Ron Greenberg said the retention initiatives are important, but seem far too modest. Mr. Greenberg said the individual goals for improvement from the institutions work out to about $6 million for 350 students. “I just didn't find it to be acceptable,” he said.

        The council voted to re-examine the goals of the universities and colleges, perhaps with an eye toward forcing them to keep more students on campus to qualify for the money.

        As usual, the universities asked for a long list of con struction projects, but the council took a different approach and will merely endorse them, without making a formal recommendation.

        Mr. Hunter said the council endorsed two at NKU: $15.4 million for renovating the old science building to classrooms; and about $750,000 for renovations to Landrum Hall.

        In any event, council member Walter Baker said the universities should not expect much. “Those projects are not going to be done, most likely,” said Mr. Baker, a former state senator.

        The council budget request is only the first in a long series of steps that will produce the state spending plan for the two fiscal years that begin July 1.

        Enquirer contributor Ray Schaefer contributed to this report.


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