NKU funding less than most

With Gov. Fletcher’s recent budget cuts, including a nearly $4 million cut in funding for Northern Kentucky University, one can’t help but wonder where Kentucky postsecondary education is headed, especially at NKU, the most underfunded university in the state.

NKU receives the least amount of state funding of any Kentucky university, and Fletcher’s December and January funding cuts further jeopardize the future of the university.

The governor, who took office Dec. 8, has alreadyordered nearly $70 million in cuts for postsecondary education funding. Cuts to NKU eliminate nearly 8.5 percent of the $47 million that the university receives in state funding. As of June 2003, NKU’s

budget is $125 million budget for the 2003-2004 fiscal year, and $47 million of that comes from state funding. With the recent budget cuts, NKU state funding will be only $43 million.

Of course, when you’re speaking in millions of dollars, the budget cuts seem like a drop in the bucket. But when you look at what the cuts can mean to students, $4 million is a dear price to pay.

At the very least, the budget cuts mean a tighter fiscal rein for campus departments and organizations. That comes down to less funding for student organizations and events.

At worst, the budget cuts could force the administration to make a mid-semester tuition increase, dipping directly into the pockets of students.

In the long term, budget cuts may mean a halt to university growth and development initiatives, such as plans for a new athletic center and student center. These budget cuts will almost certainly also mean a long-term increase in tuition.

From a governor who said during a September visit to NKU that “Equity in funding in universities needs to be implemented. I will absolutely work on that. This university is integrated into the economic development of the region,” the recent funding cuts are a stunning about-face.

Granted, the Kentucky economy is in trouble, and drastic cuts need to be made in order to remedy the state’s $302 million deficit. But it is puzzling that Fletcher is now reducing state funding for state colleges and universities. He ran, and was elected, on a platform that included a plan to improve Kentucky postsecondary education in order to retain graduates and improve the state economy. It seems campaign pledges are empty promises, which can be discarded as soon as the governor sets foot in Frankfort.

NKU, although “integrated into the economic development of the region,” is the most under-funded university in the state of Kentucky, and will apparently continue to be so until the Kentucky budget is balanced.

The university receives $3,791 in state funding for each full-time student. The state median is $5,671 per full-time student. NKU ranks at the bottom of that list. There is a stunning discrepancy of nearly $10,000 between the amount NKU receives per student and the amount received by the University of Kentucky for each of its students.

Fletcher’s budget cuts will further widen the gap between NKU and its more generously funded fellow state universities. They will certainly take the wind out of the astonishing growth the university saw under Gov. Patton. Let us hope that NKU, a fledgling university with comparison its fellow state universities, will not continue to suffer under the burden of Kentucky’s

budget deficit.