University President James Votruba outlined the potential $8.2 million budget shortfall facing Northern Kentucky University at the Student Government Association meeting Feb. 18. He also listed possible remedies to the deficit, including tuition hikes.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Votruba told SGA. “We know what’s been proposed.”
Votruba discussed the “worst case scenario,” which would see NKU lose the equivalent of 110 full-time faculty or a 24 percent increase in tuition.
Nevertheless, he said that it was not the likeliest scenario. He pointed out that the budget is still well in the works, and said legislators have assured him that they will work to curtail the 12 percent proposed cuts to higher education.
He added, however, that no one will know how the budget situation will play out until mid-March, and that NKU will not implement any changes until then.
According to Votruba, the cuts are coming at a time when NKU is 33 percent underdeveloped, equal to five academic buildings. He also pointed out that NKU receives, $12,617 per student, which is$10,000 less than the University of Kentucky, who has the highest funding per student.
To compensate for that, Votruba broached several options, including increasing class size, tuition hikes, more part-time faculty, reductions in admissions, salary freezes and scholarship cuts.
None of those, he acknowledged, were appealing.
“In circumstances like this, there is no choice that has only positive consequences,” he said. The salary freeze, for example, would make NKU less attractive for quality faculty.
“We have to have salaries that are competitive,” he said. “If not, we’ll get people that the other universities don’t want.”
Nevertheless, he affirmed that he would only execute those options as a last resort, and said he will try to preserve the university’s “core strengths,” which he said are small class sizes and students’ rapport with faculty.
Instead, he said he’s hoping to find a balance between the options. Currently, NKU is proceeding with cutting only $3.7 million from the governor’s three percent cut. He has also instituted a hiring freeze for some positions, and has every vice president looking for places to cut 1.1 percent of spending, with a goal of saving $3.4 million over the next two years.
He added that the school won’t ask only students to sacrifice.
“I don’t want you to think that the administration is going to take the easy route and pass (the burden) along to the students,” Votruba said.
In addition, any tuition hikes would be accompanied by an increase in need-based grants by NKU, which would help compensate for
He also addressed critics. “The public, they say ‘what these universities need to do is tighten their belts,” he said. “(NKU) has been tightening its belt for all of 40 years. We’re the least public of all Kentucky’s universities.”
He said that’s because, unlike other colleges, NKU receives most of its funding through tuition, rather than the state.
Also, Votruba said that out of NKU’s $198,347,000 budget, only $115,835,000 in spending is available for the $8.2 million cuts.
Votruba also pointed out that the Informatics building and Lakeside are already funded, and the University of Louisville’s invitation to play NKU basketball’s exhibition game was paid for through private donations.
Votruba followed up his presentation with a Q-and-A, where SGA Sen. Paul Myers, said tuition hikes concerned him. He said in an SGA survey last year, 10 percent of students cited low tuition as their favorite aspect of NKU.
While a tuition hike is
SGA Sen. Mike Tobergta asked if a tuition freeze would come from Frankfort, as had happened to several Ohio schools.
Ken Kline, director of the Budget Office, said that would be unlikely, as those freezes came with a “guarantee of additional state appropriations.”
SGA is coordinating a rally along with Kentucky’s other higher ed institutions in the state’s capital Feb. 20 to protest the cuts.