Western among first to seek Bucks for Brains

Mai Hoang

Western may still manage to get some money from Frankfort, despite having almost no new state appropriations in the last five years.

For a third time, Western is among the first universities in a position to accept all of its allocated funds from the Regional University Excellence Trust Fund, or Bucks for Brains.

Western sent a request to the Council on Post-Secondary Education to use all of its allocated $4.7 million to match recent gifts Western has received in the last two years.

Under this program, which started in 1998, colleges and universities are eligible to receive state funding for each biannual budget period to match financial gifts that go to the university’s research endowment.

Bill Payne, a senior associate of finance for CPE, said several other state colleges and universities have struggled to accept all of their matching funds.

By requesting all its matching money, Western’s efforts will help push legislators to continue funding the program in the future, he said.

Tom Hiles, vice president for Institutional Advancement, said having the matching funds was attractive to people who donated during the university’s capital campaign.

“I would say for the most part it increased the amount they wanted to give, or it sped it up so they would give the commitment now rather than later,” Hiles said.

In the 1998-2000 biennial budget, Western received $2.3 million in matching funds. In the 2000-2002 biennial budget, the state gave $4.7 million in matching funds.

Payne said the state distributed 100 percent of the funds for Bucks for Brains in the last two rounds of funding. They are in the process of distributing the matching money for this current round.

In its recommendation for the next biennial budget, the CPE has requested $61 million to fund the fourth round of Bucks for Brains. It is a smaller amount – the state allocated $120 million in the last two rounds.

Payne said the smaller amount is due partially to the state budget shortfall and partially to the state wanting to figure out how much it needs to provide in increasing a university’s endowment.

Fully funding the $60 million will help universities maintain their endowments, he said.

“If you stay in it at a reduced level, you’ll be able to maintain your endowments at a competitive level,” he said.

Hiles said he has questioned why Kentucky’s research institutions – the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky – can get greater amounts from Bucks for Brains than the comprehensive universities.

The state has allocated $199 million in matching funds for UK and $99 million for U of L. Because the two universities are designated as research institutions, CPE has allocated higher amounts for those two schools.

Western’s allocation for Bucks for Brains in the CPE’s budget recommendation is less – $2.3 million.

President Gary Ransdell said he wants more allocated through Bucks for Brains, but it’s not something he’s pushing as much for the upcoming budget.

“You choose carefully the things you fight for,” he said. “And our most important focus in our budget is our base benchmark funding allocation; we did well in that regard.”

Reach Mai Hoang at [email protected]