Mearns addresses NKU budget


Stephen Wilder

NKU President Geoffrey Mearns addresses several hundred people at his annual budget address. Topics included tuition increase, eliminating positions, state budget funding and money received for the future Health Innovations Center.

Eliminated positions, budget cuts, increased tuition, money received for the future Health Innovations Center and progress being made on the state funding issues are just among a few topics NKU President Geoffrey Mearns announced in his annual budget address presentation.

Several hundred people filled the Student Union Ballroom on April 30, making it feel more like a family reunion than a budget address. Hundreds of conversations simultaneously filled the room before Mearns took the podium.


Challenges NKU faces regarding 2014-15 budget

Mearns chose to break some “difficult news” about halfway through the presentation when he announced that NKU plans to eliminate 35 staff positions and 14 faculty positions in order to cut $2.5 million from the operations budget. Of those positions, about half of the staff positions and three of the faculty spots are currently occupied.

He said he knows this is not the news people came to hear, nor the news he wants to deliver, but it is the stark truth of how NKU is going to meet the challenge it is facing.

“For the individuals who are affected, we know this is going to be… an extraordinary sacrifice,” Mearns said. “From an institutional perspective, those reductions represent less than two percent of our entire workforce.”

The plans will be reviewed by the Human Resources department to insure they are consistent with NKU policies. After final decisions are made, any affected employees will be notified by June 15. Mearns said the policy requires a 30-day notice, but these people will have 60. Depending on individuals’ length of service at NKU, they will receive at least 4-12 weeks of severance.

Director of Latino Programs Leo Calderon said he sees the significance of the impact of the budget cuts, but now he understands why the reductions are taking place and what needs to be done to solve this issue.

“Part of the reality is that there’s less revenue coming in and the president has to make some difficult decisions,” Calderon said.


Tuition Increase

Mearns also announced that he will recommend to the Board of Regents a 4.75 percent increase in tuition for resident undergraduate students as well as comparable increases for graduate students during the 2014-15 year.

There will be a cap on increasing undergraduate resident student tuition of 8 percent, according to Mearns. He added that through this method, students won’t see more than a 5 percent tuition increase in a single year.

When compared to the 2012 Fall semester, last fall saw a decrease in student enrollment of 400 students. Undergraduate enrollment dropped by 1.7 percent while graduate enrollment saw a 6 percent decrease. Mearns said that this decrease in tuition revenue is short of the budget by approximately $2.2 million.

Mearns announced that NKU wants to add an approximate $4.5 million in financial aid and scholarship support.

State Appropriation

During the presentation Mearns mentioned the Council on Postsecondary Education Resolution, which states that:

“The Council hereby resolves that as a result of budget deliberations over the past year, it is evident that there is a need for the development of a comprehensive funding model that aligns the Commonwealth’s investment in postsecondary education with the Commonwealth’s postsecondary education policy objectives.”

Mearns announced that last month the state has decided to cover half of NKU’s $4,883,200 Kentucky Education Retirement System increase, leaving the university to cover the remaining $2,441,600. The state has also reduced the 2.5 percent, $1.2 million to NKU, statewide cut to all postsecondary schools to 1.5 percent, cutting only $739,000 from NKU’s budget.

The state also decided to allow NKU to hold onto the $97 million to build the Health Innovation Center.

The 2014-15 projected recurring shortfall, which includes the state budget reduction, the increase in KERS contributions, increases in scholarships and financial aid and increase fixed costs, equals to approximately $9,423,900 to NKU.
With the $9.4 million shortfall and the $7,440,000 in recurring reductions and revenue from tuition rate increases, NKU will have a recurring balance of $1,603,000, according to Mearns.