Gap in state appropriations leaves NKU at a disadvantage

NKU continues to fall behind several Kentucky universities in state appropriations, according to the 2014 Annual Financial Report presented at the Board of Regents meeting Wednesday.


State Appropriations

NKU does not meet ideal state funding benchmarks according to both Moody’s Investors Service, which rates NKU as a stable A1 institution, and compared to Kentucky comprehensive universities, according to NKU comptroller Russell Kerdolff. Kentucky comprehensive universities include EKU, WKU, Murray State University and Morehead State University.

“We receive $1900 less per [fiscal year] per Moody’s median and we receive $1500 plus dollars less [per student] than the Kentucky comprehensive universities,” said Kerdolff.

This gap leaves students paying more in tuition than students at other Kentucky schools.

“Our students pay 70 percent of the total public funds, but the state only pays 30 percent. And in the Kentucky comps, students pay 56 percent,” Kerdolff said. “At Moody’s it’s 60-40. The university has less public funds compared to other schools.”

Last year, NKU’s net tuition declined by $1.8 million due to a slight decline in enrollment.



Because NKU has less public funds to begin with, the university also has less room for expenses.

“We spend less than other Kentucky comp universities and by quite a bit,” Kerdolff said.

NKU’s auxiliary operations are smaller than at other schools due to less student housing, which helps lower expenses, said Kerdolff.

However, the school also spends less in the areas of academic support, instructional expenses and student aid.

“This is primarily because we have less need-based funding from federal and state programs,” Kerdolff said. “For example, our total Pell grant funds which is about $17.5 million, divided by your [full-time students], our average is $600 less per [student] than the average of the other Kentucky comps.”



Despite state appropriations remaining constant at 21% of the budget, revenues increased slightly from $225 million to $227 million.

“The university, even in continued difficult economic times, finds itself in good financial position,” said Ken Ramey, vice president of administration and finance.

Kerdolff said that NKU’s operating performance was positive for the 2014 fiscal year and that its net position is increasing and favorable compared to Kentucky comprehensive universities.

“We are in line our benchmarks, with the exception of net tuition and appropriation which we wish were the other way,” Kerdolff said. “We did make significant progress in building our capacity to serve our students in a very challenging environment and in addition to our significant investment in facilities we also invested in academic programs, student recruiting and retention and other strategic investments.”

President Geoffrey Means said that the administration will focus on increasing enrollment to boost revenue.

“The area that they will focus on that might be an area of concern is our flat enrollment or slightly down enrollment,” Mearns said.


Salary benefits

NKU’s total salary benefits are lower than other Kentucky comprehensive universities for several reasons, according to Kerdolff.

“First, we have a higher part-time-full-time faculty ratio,” Kerdolff said. “Also when you look at our staff ratios, we have fewer staff per [full-time student] than the other institutions as well, so both in terms of faculty and staff, we have lower salary benefits.”

From the most most recent data, NKU has 56.4 percent full-time faculty compared to 69.5 percent full-time faculty in the Kentucky comprehensive universities, said Kerdolff.

“It seems clear to me that this university is probably relying on part-timers more so than other institutions,” said Dennis Repenning, a member of the Board of Regents.

President Geoffrey Means said that he envisions NKU recruiting more experts to teach part-time.

“We would like to rely on [part-time instructors] less for financial necessity and more for their expertise and what they can add to educational experience,” he said.