Kentucky State Hit Particularly Hard by State Cuts

Posted February 5, 2016

Historically Black, Kentucky State University will suffer tremendously if Gov. Matt Bevin’s 9% budget cut is approved.

The Governors first State of the Commonwealth and Budget address given January 26th called for a 4.5% cut in state spending during this fiscal year ending June 30th, by executive order, and 9% cuts in the next fiscal year beginning July 1 if approved by State Legislators.

Many areas were exempt from these cuts including student financial aid, salaries of corrections and police officers and staffing for the Commonwealth’s Attorneys, County Attorneys and Public Defender’s offices.

Kentucky State University President  Raymond Burse presenting a scholarship award during Lexington's King Day Celebration.

Kentucky State University President Raymond Burse presenting a scholarship award during Lexington’s King Day Celebration. Photo credit: AJ Coffey

However, higher education was not exempted and University Presidents including Raymond Burse of Kentucky State are scrambling to decide their next steps.

The Governor spoke with Pres. Burse and other University presidents via telephone the day after his speech. “The call by the Governor was to get the university presidents’ reactions to what had been proposed, and we also discussed how to go forward into the future,’’ reports Burse. “[The governor] also opened the door for the university presidents to come back to him with ideas and suggestions. And, he provided some suggestions in terms of the current year budget cut – what he was willing to consider.’’

Burse called the conversation cordial.

Two days after the budget cut revelation and a week after his State of the University address, President Burse called the cut to higher ed funding a “surprise’’ in a written statement. “Last week…I stated that KSU was, and is, in crisis mode. The Governor’s proposed budget further increases the challenges we face,’’ said Burse. “The proposed cuts are drastic to our University.’’

Enrollment is down 30% at the small land grant college which is seated in the states capitol of Frankfort. That loss of tuition has had a crippling effect on Kentucky State’s bottom line.

“I made the decision coming through the door that if you move into our dormitories, live there, eat in the cafeteria and go to our classes, you’d have to do something new and novel and that is you’d have to pay your bill,’’ said Burse.

About 600 students could not secure the funds to remain in school.

Additionally, the President said that the previous administration did not enforce and follow the established admission criteria. Now that student acceptance guidelines are used, less students have been admitted.

If Bevin’s plan goes through, KSU will lose more than $2 million in fiscal year 2016-2017 and then a dramatic $9 million dollar cut in 2017-2018. The funds cut in ‘17-‘18 will be put into a pool to be dispersed to each university based on, yet to be developed, performance evaluations.

This financial crisis will require changes at the Kentucky State.

Burse made national news when he opted to donate some of his salary to raise the minimum wage of staff positions to $10 per hour. The president does not foresee pay cuts. But staff cuts may be on the horizon. “As for personnel, if budgets cuts are enacted, personnel will be affected. As for how many, I don’t know who because we are still in the early stages on trying to determine what that is and what will happen,’’ Burse said.

In Governor Bevin’s address he mentioned two universities that have had their budget amounts audited and it was determined that they would receive an increase in State funding. Those schools were Northern Kentucky and Western Kentucky University.
But what about increased funding for Kentucky State? Burse says that there has not been a review of KSU’s budget allotment since he resumed his post as President; until this across-the-board deduction.

“As it relates to Kentucky State, I think our situation is unique. It is unique because we’ve had a substantial drop in enrollment on top of a budget reduction. It is a major issue for us – one of which we are looking at and one which we will address in time. But, it is, in fact, a concern,’’ said Burse.