UK right to push for full funding toward top-20 plan

In the wake of Gov. Steve Beshear asking UK and other state institutions to prepare budgets with a 15 percent cut in funding, it is encouraging to see UK administrators continue fighting on behalf of the university and its students.

Despite the state being in what the governor has called a dismal budget situation, UK will pursue full funding for the Top 20 Business Plan, the Kernel reported on Jan. 17.

A budget cut of 12 percent next year, on top of this year’s 3 percent cut, would result in a total loss of about $50 million for UK, which would require a tuition increase of about 30 percent to offset, UK President Lee Todd said in the article. Along with a tuition increase, he said, such a cut would require UK to slow faculty hiring “tremendously.”

Among UK’s requests for the legislature are a 6 percent annual increase in funding each year for the next two years; state bonds for a second science research building and a new Gatton College of Business and Economics Complex; and funding for a new Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center.

The governor has yet to officially present his budget proposal to the legislature; that announcement will be Tuesday. While he previously warned of possible state budget cuts across the board, Beshear still has the opportunity to change his mind before the budget presentation.

State universities have already openly rejected the possibility of a large cut. In a Jan. 11 letter to the governor, Todd and other leaders of Kentucky’s major higher education institutions declined to give the specific figures requested by Beshear for how the proposed budget cuts would affect public universities.

Beshear should realize that to ensure the state has a healthy economy in the future, funding education must be a priority. Hopefully UK’s persistent efforts will help Beshear come to that realization.

Even if Beshear sticks to his announced intentions, his budget recommendation to the legislature will be just part of the process.

The legislature holds the power to make changes they deem necessary and to approve the final budget. The governor’s budget proposal has no binding power. Consequently, UK is correct in presenting its arguments for full funding to the legislature and the governor.

As Todd and other university administrators have indicated on multiple occasions, UK cannot reach top-20 status without proper funding, which Beshear promised during his gubernatorial campaign.

UK has done all it can for now. Now we must wait and see if the governor changes his mind by Tuesday.