Beshear announces agency bond plan, includes Honors College & International Center

Taylor Harrison

Gov. Steve Beshear announced Thursday a plan to approve Kentucky’s public universities issuing bonds for campus improvements supported by university revenues. Individual universities will issue the bonds for renovation projects — one project included is WKU’s Honors College and International Center.

Gov. Beshear said these agency bonds will meet the needs of Kentucky’s universities with no impact on the General Fund, since they are paid for through revenue streams such as student fees and athletic revenues, according to a university press release.

“I appreciate the universities’ continued good stewardship during these tough economic times,” he said. “At a time when we are pushing our students to pursue higher education, it’s imperative that they have adequate classrooms, housing and facilities, and the issuance of these bonds will accelerate those projects to meet those needs quickly.”

One project involves $22 million for construction of an Honors College and International Center at WKU.

Ann Mead, WKU’s chief financial officer, said in an email that this announcement and support are very positive for WKU. She also said there will not be state funding for this project — it’s just a matter of post-secondary education institutions being allowed to issue agency bonds to address their campus needs.

“The Honors College and International Center has been a priority for WKU, as it has been in our six-year Capital Plan and was in our 2012-14 Biennial Budget Request,” Mead said. “However, the 2012 General Assembly did not authorize us to sell bonds to finance the project.”

If approved by the 2013 General Assembly, Mead said WKU will receive authorization to sell bonds to finance the project.

“The annual cost of the bonds will be funded from growth in tuition revenue from international students enrolling at WKU through the Navitas Program,” Mead said.

Mead said that design work will take much of 2013 and she does not anticipate the bonds being sold until 2014.

Robbin Taylor, WKU’s vice president for Public Affairs, said in an email she believes the General Assembly previously declined to include the agency bond projects in the budget largely because of concerns about the state’s overall debt capacity.

Taylor said Kentucky’s eight university presidents worked to refine the list of agency bond projects and reduced the overall number of projects from the original 2012 request.

“These 11 projects are critical needs, particularly some of the residence hall projects at Murray and Morehead, or time critical in that they are needed as soon as possible to meet university priorities,” Taylor said.

WKU’s project is important because of the large numbers of Honors College and international students, Taylor said.

“This facility will provide a place for the staff and students of both programs to have more adequate space to better serve both Honors students and international students,” Taylor said.