Outreach programs threatened by cuts

If enacted, budget cuts will leave Northern Kentucky University struggling to maintain its current level of involvement in outreach programs.

Several free-to-the-public NKU-sponsored programs, including the Center for Civic Engagement, CINSAM, Educational Outreach, Institute for Freedom Studies, METS, and the Small Business Development Center and Family Business Center, are at risk for elimination if the cuts prevent them from receiving adequate funding.

The Center for Integrative Natural Science and Mathematics (CINSAM), works strictly with schools to help them become more proficient in science and math.

“If we lose funding, one of the first things to be cut will be NKU working with area schools,” said Jon Draud, director of university-school partnerships. “We have to work internally with the university first, before we can help, or work with, the community. If the budget is cut as I think it will be, we will have to stop a lot of those [programs].”

After the completion of the 1997-2002 Vision, Values, and Voices plan implemented by NKU President James Votruba, the focus has been shifted to looking at the next five years.

NKU administrators have interacted with between 400-500 local community leaders and asked what they will need from the university in order to support the area’s economic quality of life.

The community wants the university to be more involved in getting rural young people involved with post-secondary education earlier.

It has been suggested that NKU host a ‘county day’ where kids will be able to visit the university accompanied by their parents and experience some of the positive aspects of college, such as touring the new science building or seeing a play.

The purpose would be to connect middle and elementary school children with the university in general, so they start to think about college.

An increase in the university’s involvement in the support of economic development, such as producing more graduates in general, specifically in information technology, working with companies to help with marketing strategies, and expanding economic programs have been suggested by community leaders.

Working actively with local non-profit organizations, becoming more involved in supporting local government decision-making, and becoming more involved with health care are proposed future programs.

If the budget cut is more significant than the reserve previously created in anticipation of a two percent deficit and the state legislature does not raise the revenue, these proposals may never have the chance to materialize.

“One of the things we have heard from the community is that they are very proud of NKU. They are proud of the economic quality and community involvement from NKU,” said Votruba. “The community has said, ‘we love what you’re doing and we want more of it’. My concern is that if we take these cuts, we will be less able to support the quality of NKU and the growth of our institution.”

While a dent in the operating budget of any institution would have a negative effect, a nine percent cut would severely impact the university. NKU already receives less per student funding than any of the benchmark, community colleges, and other Kentucky universities.

“I think it is because [we are] a young university, and when we were founded, we were a different type of university than we are now,” Votruba said. “We were a lower division, less involved in the community, and while NKU has grown to be more comprehensive, our funding hasn’t kept pace.”

“The previously mentioned programs are very costly, and if we have to take a nine percent budget cut as of next year, as is very possible, we will be severely hurt,” he said.

Votruba said the decision the University will have to make will be an important one.

“We are now at critical crossroads,” he said. “Will we continue to invest in education and education improvement as for ensuring the economic quality of life for all of the citizens or are we going to compromise the enormous gains that have been made over the past decade in all education?”