FRANKFORT — The Council on Postsecondary Education approved a budget recommendation for the state’s colleges and universities that seeks to restore half of the state funding cuts imposed since 2007-08 and subjects the entire amount to achievement of campus-specific outcomes such as increases in retention, degrees and credentials produced, graduation rates and closing achievement gaps.
Meeting Friday at Gateway Community and Technical College, the Council unanimously approved the $86.7 million performance funding budget request for the 2016-18 biennium for the state’s eight public universities and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. In addition to tying campus funding to performance on institution-specific goals, the budget request, if funded, will secure funds to support faculty and staff, student support services and technology enhancements.
The state has cut campus operating budgets seven times in the past eight years, resulting in cuts of $173.5 million, or 16 percent, of combined net General Fund appropriations. During this same time period, the number of full-time equivalent students attending state colleges and universities increased by 10,218 students or 7.0 percent.
Council President Bob King said, “Most of Kentucky’s challenges can be solved by having a robust economy, which we can help achieve through developing a workforce with the knowledge and skills that high-wage 21st century employers require. Our campuses are the most important instruments that Kentucky has to create this highly skilled workforce to drive job growth and a healthy economy,” added King.
Just last month, a report from the University of Kentucky’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) found that increasing Kentucky’s educational attainment levels to the national average would add over $900 million annually to the state’s economy, primarily through increased state tax revenue , higher workforce participation and savings in health care costs associated with chronic disease.
All public campus presidents signed a letter of support for the 2016-18 postsecondary education budget recommendation, and the Council’s Budget Development Work Group unanimously recommended the request to the Council.
State general funds are the primary way that Kentucky finances its public colleges and universities and, along with tuition, the funds support education expenditures such as faculty and staff salaries, fringe benefits, student financial aid, utilities, building maintenance, libraries, student support services, and numerous other operating expenses.
Other operating budget priorities include funding for five special initiatives, totaling $35.8 million. They include:
*Centers for Research Excellence at the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville to address important state needs;
*Western Kentucky University and Northern Kentucky University equity adjustments to address disparities in state support among institutions in the comprehensive sector;
*Kentucky State University student recruitment and retention activities;
*Kentucky State University land grant match to meet federal match requirements; and
*Kentucky Community and Technical College System tuition stabilization to support lower tuition and fee increases.
In addition to operating funds, the Council is requesting $125 million to fund the fifth round of Bucks for Brains. This highly successful program encourages private giving to support research faculty, staff and infrastructure at the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, and strengthens essential programs at the comprehensive universities, by matching private donations dollar-for-dollar with state appropriations. These funds are typically endowed, with investment proceeds used to provide a perpetual source of funding for research-related activities.