Ky. mulls funding cuts to colleges

Northern Kentucky University is preparing for another round of budget cuts. In response to a request from the Council on Postsecondary Education, President James Votruba proposed how NKU would deal with a 6.7 percent state-funding cut.

If the 6.7 percent cut passes, NKU will lose about $3.5 million annually from the commonwealth. Additionally, the university is preparing to lose $2.6 million received from Kentucky for maintenance and operation of the Bank of Kentucky Center and the new Student Union.

‘If the state would cut us 6.7 percent, it would make NKU a different university,’ Votruba said.’ ‘It would be very difficult for the university to continue our enrollment growth.’
According to NKU’s plan, new student enrollment will be capped, 90 will be eliminated, $1.3 million could be cut from need-based financial aid and several departments and organizations will be thinned or eliminated completely.

‘We would have less support in scholarships at a time (when) families are more concerned than ever on how to pay their children’s tuition,’ Votruba said.

Another contributing factor is the university’s involvement in the community, Votruba said.
However, he added that he is seeing signs from the General Assembly in Frankfort that they are doing as much as possible to lower the proposed budget cuts.

NKU has planned several ways to compensate for the loss in funding. One the ways is by taking back $450,000 pledged to Strive, a need-based financial aid investment designed to increase the number of urban students at NKU. ‘

Additionally, the university will not be able to invest in high-demand programs such as nursing, information technology and business. It also will cut online course development and limit the number of students with academic deficiencies admitted. ‘

At the same time, the proposal outlines closing the Metropolitan Educational Training Services (METS), a conference center in Boone County, Ky., borrowing from NKU’s reserve fund, cutting the number of books, documents and periodicals purchased for the library and cutting academic advising services. ‘

‘We took a six percent cut last year (on schools budget),’ Votruba said. ‘With this proposal we would be taking a 6.7 percent cut, so we are well above 12 percent reduction on a campus that is already under funded.’

The reasons for being under funded, according to Votruba, is that NKU is the youngest public university in the Commonwealth and wasn’t well funded when the university was founded in 1968.

‘NKU is one of the fastest growing universities in Kentucky,’ Votruba said. ‘But, our funding has not kept up with the enrollment of students on our campus.’

However, the funding cuts could have a more direct effect on current and future students.
According to Votruba’s proposal, NKU will have fewer faculty and staff than comparable universities and a higher percentage of part-time and adjunct faculty.

In 2008, NKU trimmed $8.3 million from its budget to compensate a $3.3 million loss from the commonwealth and increases in fixed expenses due to new buildings such as the BOKC and new Student Union.

The university eliminated 24 positions, closed— five university departments and the Covington Campus, implemented hiring freezes and reduced base operating expenses by $1.25 million.

‘NKU is going to do everything in its power to protect the quality of education,’ Votruba said. ‘We will protect what the students say they value most at NKU.’