The Kentucky House Speaker is reigniting the fight to add another state university.
Rep. Greg Stumbo, D–Prestonburg, said in an interview with Kentucky Public Radio that he won’t support any extra funding for higher education until the University of Pikeville becomes a public university.
“I can’t go home and look my constituents and look my neighbors in the face and say to them I did something to help these other universities when our kids aren’t getting the same educational opportunity,” he said to Kenny Colston of Kentucky Public Radio last month.
Later that week, Stumbo clarified his statement.
“I want to be clear that I don’t speak for everyone,” Stumbo said to Kentucky Public Radio. “My comments were centered on my role as a legislator who sees a disparity in the way students I represent are treated when it comes to higher education. “Because of that, I personally cannot, in good conscience, support more funding until I think this issue is resolved.”
President Gary Ransdell said if UPike became the ninth public university in the state, there could be hard-felt financial repercussions to current state schools, including WKU.
“If you add a ninth public university, there’s only so much money,” Ransdell said. “It would cost all the universities significant revenue if the higher education budget was cut 10 ways instead of nine ways — the eight public universities and KCTCS. You’re just diluting the purchasing power of that state dollar, and I’m not sure that’s the best solution. There are other ways to serve the needs of students in that region.”
Ransdell said he was surprised to read about Stumbo’s recent statements.
“I thought that issue was addressed in the last session with a scholarship program for students in that region,” Ransdell said. “By his assessment, the agreed-upon solution may have been insufficient, but his comments surprised me because I thought a solution was achieved. But beyond that, I can’t interpret that.”
At the next legislative session, the amount of funding for higher education will probably not be up for discussion because of the bi-annual nature of the budget, Ransdell said.
Currently, UPike enrolls more than 1,860 students from 36 different states, according to the university’s website. If added to the roster of public universities, it would join Eastern Kentucky University, Kentucky State University, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Morehead State University, Murray State University, Northern Kentucky University and WKU, as well as the KCTS schools throughout the state.
UPike would also become the smallest public university, with 400 fewer students than the current smallest, Kentucky State University, which has roughly 2,700 students enrolled, according to KSU’s website.