The Council on Postsecondary Education’s decision to cap the in-state, undergraduate and face-to-face student tuition increase at 3 percent was a point of discussion at last Friday’s Board of Regents meeting.
At the meeting, President Gary Ransdell discussed the roughly $2.5 million deficit this 3 percent cap presents. After the meeting, he said this is the only discussion he’s had with the board about it.
“I think the board is looking to me and our administration to address the budget reduction in a thoughtful way,” he said.
The board authorized the purchase of 1580 Normal Drive for $240,000 to make way for the future Honors College and International Building.
They also approved the authority of the university to procure property at 1590 Normal Drive, including the use of eminent domain if necessary at the meeting.
These two pieces of property are currently the Chi Omega sorority house and an apartment complex, Ransdell said.
“The board affirmed that that is the preferred site and then endorsed the acquisition of both pieces of property,” he said.
Faculty Regent Patti Minter and Student Regent Cory Dodds voted against these approvals.
Minter said one of the disappointing things about the CPE’s decision to cap tuition is that it forces some hard choices.
“But the other thing that bothers me after the Board of Regents meeting on Friday is that at the same time that we’re talking about cuts because we didn’t get our 5 percent tuition increase, at the very same time we’re purchasing more property and we’re getting ready to initiate a taking of property by eminent domain to build an Honors College and International Center that while it is definitely a want, it is absolutely not a need,” Minter said.
To build the $22 million Honors College and International Center, WKU has to sell agency bonds, which means that the university will be paying off the debt on the building, not the state. Minter said this is something WKU can’t afford right now.
“So the CPE’s decision not to give us 5 percent has tremendous repercussions for this campus, but it’s also going to force us to think very carefully about every dollar we spend, and at this point, we have to spend the dollars for needs — we should not be spending for wants,” she said.
Minter said she’s disappointed about the board’s decision.
“...I don’t think that it is the financially responsible thing to do in this environment,” she said.
Dodds echoed Minter’s statement that the Honors College and International Center is a want, not a need.
“I think it’s just fiscally irresponsible to approve…debt for a building like this whenever we have such a large deficit, and we’re asking students to pay more in tuition and jobs are on the line,” he said. “I think going into debt for this building that benefits a very small part of the WKU community is just irresponsible.”
Dodds also said the purchase of this property could have likely waited until the fall.
“It definitely wasn’t something that we had to buy right now,” he said.
While Dodds and Minter did vote against the approvals involving the purchase of the land, Ransdell said they did not express these sentiments in the meeting’s discussion.
Dodds said the CPE is to blame for budget problems for capping the tuition increase at 3 percent, but it’s not the only factor.
“I definitely think that the debt that we’ll take on from the honors college agency bonds is a substantial part of that equation as well,” he said.
Minter said the CPE’s decision will have ramifications on the university for years to come, and she said because of this, the “wants” need to go on hold, so they can focus on what needs to be funded.
“That’s what a university should do,” she said.