Don’t cut our allowance

Welcome to Kentucky, where education pays.

Or, at least it used to.

You don’t have to be a witty poet or wearied pundit to find the irony of Kentucky’s adopted slogan considering expected cuts in funding for secondary education throughout the Commonwealth. Already, schools across the state are bracing for 15 percent decreases to their budgets. At Northern Kentucky University, that means $8.2 million will be lost – about $546.66 per student.

Looking back on the Courier-Journal’s 2007 profile of gubernatorial candidate Steve Beshear, one would have thought the opposite. He said, “If we are to have any chance of meeting our goal of doubling the number of degree holders by 2020, then we need to increase post-secondary participation and the best way to do that is by making higher education more affordable.”

If so, why has Beshear already instituted a three percent reduction in state funding for higher education, and has threatened a further 12 percent cut?

As University President James Votruba stated, “The loss in funding would be $8.2 million, and NKU would have to balance that deficit with either spending cuts or increased income. One aspect that would be curbed is growth. Several high demand programs, such as nursing, information systems, finance and some sciences would face a cap on enrollment.”

At least when asked by the Courier-Journal what changes he would make to the KEES program, Beshear admitted, “A recent report by the State Auditor found that resident tuition to Kentucky’s colleges and universities has risen 83% since the fall of 2001. If our universities and colleges are going to meet the reform goals they were given, and if Kentucky is going to succeed, hard-working Kentucky families must be able to afford higher education opportunities. As Governor, I will evaluate the KEES program to see if changes are needed.”

Apparently, the necessary change was budget cuts. There is no logical path to arrive at this conclusion, even in the face of our state’s declining revenues. Bluntly put, there is neither economic nor social sense in cutting higher education’s funds after so much has already been invested to improve schools in Kentucky.

Though Beshear has made some positive improvements to the commonwealth’s public universities, such as domestic partner benefits at his proposed cuts grossly ignore a system that had been showing glimmers of hope. Kentucky Community and Technical College System President Mike McCall estimated the proposed cuts would result in $33.5 million dollars less in the Lexington Herald-Leader Feb. 7. That means 14 buildings scheduled to open within the next two years won’t.

McCall likened Beshear’s proposal to “dropping a bomb” on post-secondary education.

All students should devote a small section of their time to contacting their legislators in Frankfort. Tell them there must be alternatives to cutting higher education so drastically.

Tell them that such reductions will mean a bleak future for the Commonwealth. Tell them that NKU, which is by any standard the most under developed university in Kentucky, deserves the money. Taking a moment to sign a petition, contact a legislator or attend lobbying events are a small price to pay when staring down the bleak gauntlet facing our state’s universities, and our own pockets.