On the surface, it was business as usual for the Board of Regents on Friday – new announcements were made, motions were approved and documents were shared.
But ultimately, even a change of scenery for the board from their regular meeting place in the Cornelius A. Martin Regents Room in Mass Media and Technology Hall to the recently opened Augenstein Alumni Center did little to disperse the looming cloud that is the coming budget reduction as a result of a 3 percent, instead of a 5 percent, tuition increase for the next school year.
The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education sets the maximum face-to-face, in-state and undergraduate tuition rate increase for Kentucky public universities, choosing to cap the rate for this year at 3 percent.
President Gary Ransdell was frank with the board.
“It’s a serious process in which we are currently engaged,” Ransdell said. “But we are approaching it thoughtfully and thoroughly.”
The Board began the meeting by welcoming and swearing in its newest member, Dr. Phillip Bale. Bale’s wife, Kristen, formally served on the Board of Regents from 1997 to 2001.
Shortly after, Carl Fox, dean of Graduate Studies, announced that WKU’s doctorate of physical therapy program has now reached candidate for accreditation status, allowing for the program to begin accepting students.
The first class of 30 will begin in June and will be housed this fall inside the Medical-Center Health Sciences Complex located on the campus of the Medical Center in Bowling Green. The doctorate of physical therapy will join nursing practice and educational leadership as the university’s third doctoral program.
The board also authorized the purchase of 1580 Normal Drive for $240,000 to make way for the future Honors College and International Building, as well as approving the authority of the university to procure property at 1590 Normal Drive, including the use of eminent domain if necessary.
Ransdell, during the finance and budget committee section of the meeting, delivered new details as to how the university will be addressing the roughly $2.5 million deficit in the budget a 3 percent tuition increase presents.
“We will, at this juncture, I’m confident we will not simply do an across the board reduction to make up the deficit we now have to face,” Ransdell said. “I really believe we are beyond the point as a campus where spreading the cut across all divisions would be prudent or practical…We will be very selective and we are measuring programs that we simply are going to have to move forward and have a lesser degree of focus, or perhaps not at all in some cases.”
Ransdell has continually emphasized that the university will prioritize jobs and attempt to protect and keep as many as possible, but he said today there could be some casualties.
“We will do our very best to keep that to a minimum, but I think it is inevitable given this dynamic,” Ransdell said.
A hard look at the university budget, specifically taking note of recurring expenses that are being paid for with non-recurring money and simplifying the budget was also brought up in Ransdell’s briefing to the board as to better prepare the university for the 2014-2016 biennium.
Bryan Russell, director of Planning, Design & Construction, detailed to the board the university’s summer construction plan, as well as an update on the Downing University Center renovation. Russell said progress is ahead of schedule in many areas.
Summer construction will begin on May 13 and go until August 17.
“We’ve targeted this date because Master Plan starts the next day,” Russell said. “We want freshman to see a fresh face of Western, not construction.”
Summer construction projects will include the installation of additional lights at the Colonnades and on State Street, installation of underground electric wiring to service buildings at the top of the hill and the moving of the DUC Food Court to Topper Café.