What are you worth to the state?

NKU receives least amount of money from state
per student among four-year universities

NKU is receiving the least amount of money per full-time equivalent student from the state compared to any other public university in Kentucky.

Eastern Kentucky University, the Kentucky public university of closest size, received almost $1,500 more per full-time equivalent student for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

EKU had 633 more full-time equivalent students than NKU full-time equivalent students in fall 2012.

The university with the most state funding, the University of Kentucky, received $11,755 per full-time equivalent student for the 2012-13 fiscal year, compared to NKU’s $3,796 per full-time equivalent student.

There’s no discernable reason for this, according to President Geoffrey Mearns. However, Mearns said the university is not looking to point out the funding different universities receive.

“[This] disparity is the result of a process that isn’t driven by good policy, but is in fact simply locked in place based upon politics,” Mearns said. “And so, our position is that we should develop a rational, strategic funding model…. I think it will produce more funding for our institution, based upon our productivity and our size, but that’s not the principal focus.”

Instead, Mearns said NKU is focusing on educating politicians about what he calls the “inadequacies” of the state’s current funding practices.

Mearns compared the state’s budget to a family making a budget.

“If instead of having a thoughtful way of allocating resources, you’re saying, ‘Let’s buy as many tennis rackets and tennis balls as we can,’ and not saving for retirement,…in a relatively short order, that’s going to prove to be imprudent.”

In his budget address last spring, Mearns said state appropriations made up 22 percent of the total NKU 2013-14 budget. He added that tuition made up 65 percent of the university’s revenue, a point that he stressed has changed in recent years with state funding once being as much as 65 percent.

In recent years, state funding has decreased for NKU– from $55 million in 2010 to $46 million for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Some NKU administrators, including Mearns and Vice President of Government and Community Relations Joe Wind, think the future lies in what is called “outcomes-based funding.”

Outcomes-based funding is a funding model where the state sets pre-defined goals, and states allocate more money to schools that meet those policy objectives.

Mearns believes that if the state will distribute the money in a more sensible way, it will turn out to be better for the state in the long run. If the legislature is deciding to fund universities based off of politics, then the schools are not the priority of legislators, Mearns said.