Budget a go, tuition grows

Northern Kentucky University President James Votruba said he’s waiting for Governor Paul Patton to approve the current budget passed by Kentucky’s General Assembly before lifting interim measures he issued to deal with possible cuts in funding.

“[We’re] getting ready to lift them pretty soon,” said Votruba of the measures.

In the months leading up to the passage of the budget, the university braced for cuts anywhere from 1.8 to 10 percent.

A freeze on staff hiring to fill vacant staff positions, a moratorium on some construction projects and restrictions on out-of-state travel were among some of the measures taken until the state budget picture was clarified.

The General Assembly passed a state budget on March 11 and sent it to Governor Patton for final approval.

In the meantime the university has proceeded as if the document passed by the House and Senate was the final copy of the budget.

The Board of Regents voted unanimously to approve a tuition increase last Wednesday.

Resident, full-time undergraduates will pay $1,872 a semester, an increase of 16.4 percent. Nonresident, full-time undergraduates will pay $3,996 a semester, an increase of 7.1 percent.

Graduate, business graduate and law students also face an increase.

Approximately 2.5 percent of the total increase will be used to support a $31 million student union.

The Regents approved other increases as well.

The parking fee will increase from $48 to $96 over the next two years.

Double occupancy room rental will increase from $1,128 to $1,184 per semester, a 5 percent increase. Basic meal plans will go from $990 to $1,020 per semester.

The Legislature cut NKU’s base budget, which is recurring, by around $731,000 for fiscal year 2002/2003. The university also received cuts during fiscal year 2001/2002 totaling around $537,000.

While the base budget was increased $1.8 million for fiscal year 2003/2004, the university only netted around $500,000 because of the previous cuts.

Administrators said the increases were necessary for NKU to retain its quality and continue to grow.

“I don’t like to sit here and recommend a 16.4 percent tuition increase,” Votruba said.

Both Votruba and Gerald Hunter, vice president for Enrollment and Financial Planning, talked about underfuding the university has had to deal with, saying NKU receives the least amount of state support in comparison to other benchmark institutions.

At a Student Government Association meeting March 17, Votruba said if tuition wasn’t raised, NKU would be a different place with larger classes and fewer services.

At a joint meeting of the Policy and Finance Committee, which preceded the Regents’ meeting, Votruba and Hunter presented a list of what they called essential investments taken from the Vision, Voices and Values meetings held with students, faculty, community members and community leaders last year.

At the top of the list is the new Student Union, which will provide meeting spaces for students and other groups on campus. The building will also house a “one stop shop” for students, with services such as the Registrar and Bursar housed closely together.

The Regents authorized the planning, funding, and construction of the new building.

Votruba said the building was important for attracting new students as well as serving current students.

“This budget will help us to create a state-of-the-art $31 million building that will be a hub for all students,” said SGA President Katie Herschede, who serves on the Board of Regents, in a speech before the vote. “It will be a place where traditional students, non-traditional students, adult students and prospective students will be able to gather and congregate.”

While Herschede voted for the increase, she pointed out that she felt the university was shorted by the Legislature.

“Regardless of how you ideologically feel about tuition, there is little room to argue that students at NKU are not getting their fair share from the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” she said.

“Some lawmakers would lead you to believe that they didn’t raise taxes this year,” she said. “They [did raise] taxes, more commonly known to students as tuition and they raised it on the backs of the most vulnerable population in this state…students.”

Some SGA senators have expressed concern over both the construction of the Student Union and a raise in tuition.

Senator Joseph Myers presented SGA with a resolution Monday stating that SGA should vote no on an increase.

“The current and future students of Northern Kentucky University do not want to see their tuition raised in order to pay for things that will not benefit them,” read one section of the resolution.

The resolution was ultimately voted down by Herschede after the Senate tied 7-7 with one abstention.

The increase was not discussed further because too many Senators left the meeting and quorum was lost.

Before the meeting, Herschede said she would vote in the Regents meeting however the SGA Senate voted.