WKU braces for budget cuts

Gary Ransdell mug


As Gov. Steve Beshear prepares for tonight’s Budget Address to the Kentucky General Assembly, Kentucky public universities are potentially facing modest financial cuts.

The address, airing live tonight on KET, will answer the question public university presidents across the state are asking: How much money will be lost?

“We are all uneasy because the governor talked about the possibility of modest deduction in higher education in order to free up the funding for public education,” President Gary Ransdell said. “I have stated with some degree of confidence that we have weathered the storm in state budget cuts and I wasn’t overly optimistic there wasn’t going to be new funding for higher education, but I would’ve thought we had moved past the recessionary-driven budget reductions. If in fact we are cut further it’s pretty discouraging, especially since state revenues are up and things are better.”

Ransdell said a 1 percent cut in state funding could result in an $800,000 loss in WKU’s budget. While “not catastrophic,” Ransdell said it definitely complicates the university’s financial planning.

Losing further state funding would compound a loss of WKU funding due to an unexpected enrollment drop in the fall 2013 semester.

A decrease of 668 students, 300 more than prepared for, caused a $1.6 million budget gap made up for with one-time funds across the university.

“We don’t know to what extent we can rebuild that enrollment pipeline for next fall,” Ransdell said. “Whether we can recapture what we lost in the Kentucky marketplace is uncertain.”

In a joint effort, higher education officials such as Ransdell, University of Louisville President James Ramsey, University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto, and officials from the Council on Postsecondary Education, put forth an op-ed piece run in the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The piece, distributed by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, cited a 30 percent decline in state funding per student since 2008’s recession, despite educating nearly 20 percent more students than enrolled when Kentucky passed the 1997 Postsecondary Education Improvement Act.

 “To truly achieve his vision of a stronger Kentucky — ‘a place where every person who needs a job has one, where every child has the opportunity to be successful, and where every family enjoys financial security and a high quality of life’– Kentucky also must recommit to its system of public higher education,” the piece said.

Ransdell even took to social media to voice his concerns on his Facebook page:

“Tonight, Governor Beshear will lay out his proposed state budget for 2014-2016. There is a lot at stake for higher education and for WKU as we seek to protect current state funding and hopefully achieve some level of enhanced support this spring as the General Assembly completes the budget process for the next two years.”

Gov. Beshear’s 2014 Budget Address airs tonight at 7 pm EST/ 6 pm CST on KET.

The full op-ed piece can be found here (http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20140119/OPINION04/301190019/Universities-presidents-boardchairs-speak-out-commitment-public-education?nclick_check=1) on the Courier-Journal webpage as well as on the WKU News page (http://wkunews.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/cpe-oped/).