Higher education now affected by state revenue shortfalls

As prophesied by state budget director Jim Ramsey in a visit last November to Northerner Kentucky University, the last round of state budget cuts brought on by revenue shortfalls dealt a blow to higher education. NKU suffered the lightest hit of all the state universities losing $530,700, or 1.35 percent of its general funding.

The University of Kentucky, the best funded of all the state universities, took the heaviest hit of $6,008,400, or 2 percent of its general fund.

“I’m happy for us being the least cut,” said NKU president James Votruba. “What I’m less happy with is the reason why we’re the least cut, which is we’re the most underfunded.”

The cut will be covered by a 2 percent contingency NKU has been holding. Although the cut was anticipated, Votruba said the effects will still be felt.

“We’ll feel it because of our inability to invest that half million dollars into things that are important to the campus,” he said.

How the cut will affect the expected tuition increase or the proposed revenue generating strategies is still unclear. A final decision has not been made on either of these issues. A recommendation will be made to the board in February and will be voted on in March.

“I want to be honest with students,” Votruba said. “It’s (tuition increase) going to be at the higher end rather than the lower end.”

Pricing strategies such as increasing class sizes, penalties for course shopping and new program offerings was met with general support but some concern by the faculty.

According to the minutes of the December Faculty Senate meeting posted on their web site, some concern was voiced about the increased instructional responsibilities for faculty members without incentives at the individual level, and endorsement of each of the strategies will more likely occur at the level of the individual programs and not necessarily university-wide support.

No further budget cuts are expected for 2002. If more cuts do occur, Votruba believes it will happen in the next fiscal year.

One thing has been made apparent in light of the funding cut- Votruba’s message of NKU being the most underfunded of the state universities has been heard.

“I have to give a lot of credit to the council (The Council on Post Secondary Education), the council staff and Gordon Davies for not only recognizing the funding inequities between the various universities but also the willingness to act on that,” said Votruba.