Kentucky budget keeps higher education funding steady, won’t increase pension burden

Matt Stahl

Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education released a statement on April 2 praising the state’s general assembly for passing a one-year state budget that did not include any cuts to higher education despite concerns over reduced revenue due to the COVID-19 virus.

While Kentucky usually passes a budget for a two-year period, the assembly opted to go with a shorter term option during the time of crisis. The budget does not include new Gov. Andy Beshear’s promised small increases in higher education funding and retains former Gov. Matt Bevin’s performance-based funding model, which Beshear had promised to do away with.

“I am pleased that comprehensive universities were granted relief from rising pension obligations, which remain at 49% for fiscal year 2021,” CPE President Aaron Thompson said in the statement. 

Pension contribution had been expected to rise to 93% of payroll.

Thompson also pointed out though the circumstances surrounding the budget are unforeseen, the council will push for more education funding at a later date.

“In an ideal world, higher education would have received a funding increase, the first since the Great Recession. This is not an ideal world,” Thompson said. “At some point, additional investment will be needed to ensure our colleges and universities can continue to provide the education, training, research and community outreach that improves the lives and livelihoods of all Kentuckians.”

WKU President Tim Caboni issued a statement on the budget agreeing with Thompson and pushing back requests for more funding to a future date.

“Given the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, we are thankful the legislature maintained our current funding levels and kept KERS pension contributions at 49 percent,” Caboni said. “Once the pandemic has passed, we again will advocate for the additional investments WKU needs to help rebuild our regional workforce and economy.”

The new budget will now go to Beshear’s desk for signing. 

Projects Editor Matt Stahl can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Matt on Twitter @Mattstahl97