CPE funding proposal falls short of UK’s request

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education will vote today on a proposal recommending a $51 million increase in UK’s share of the state’s general-fund dollars, which is $9.5 million less than the university requested for the 2008-2010 biennium.

In October, UK President Lee Todd presented UK’s plans to various CPE committees. The presentations included funding amounts UK would need to meet the goals of the Top 20 Business Plan: $19.8 million for 2008-09 and $20.9 million on top of that for 2009-10.

In a statement released Friday, Todd said the CPE proposal was a “positive first step” in acquiring higher-education funding. However, UK spokesman Jay Blanton declined to comment on how UK would acquire more funding if the recommendation is approved by the CPE and the General Assembly.

If the CPE passes its recommendations today and the Kentucky legislature approves them, UK would get a $17.6 million increase over this year’s funds in 2008-09 and a $15.8 million increase over that in 2009-10.

Overall, the proposed CPE budget suggests spending $2.5 billion in general-fund appropriations for state colleges and universities, an increase of more than 9 percent over the last biennium.

The proposal also sets a potential ceiling on tuition increases, suggesting a tentative cap of 9 percent for UK.

“When the council sets its parameter, it will say ‘This is the total cap, the maximum you can raise tuition,’ ” said John Hayek, CPE’s interim vice president of finance.

For undergraduates, a 9 percent tuition increase would mean about $300 more for each semester of the 2008-09 school year.

The CPE’s proposal also calls for a $37.7 million increase in state appropriations for maintenance and operation of higher-education facilities in 2008-09 and a $59.5 million increase in 2009-10.

The proposal lists $117 million for the construction of a new science research building at UK as the No. 1 funding priority in the research and economic development category. The building would include research space for nutrition science, nanotechnology, engineering and psychology, among other disciplines.

Also included is a request for $67.5 million for construction of the Gatton Building Complex, listed as the No. 8 priority in the education and general facilities category. The total cost of the complex would be $100 million.

“I think it’s part of the committee’s responsibility to help (the state) move forward,” Hayek said. “So that’s what this recommendation reflects.”

The proposed budget also includes freezing tuition at Kentucky’s community and technical colleges, including Bluegrass Community and Technical College. The intention of the freeze, the proposal says, is to increase both enrollment and the number of graduates who go on to four-year colleges and universities.

The freeze would have an estimate cost of $22.5 million to the state over the next two years.

Blanton said UK’s funding is contingent on state funding, and the university is counting on getting money from the General Assembly to fund classroom and research space, as well as the rest of UK’s top-20 plan.

In an interview last month, Blanton said UK was planning on success with the legislative session, and it was not wise for UK officials to make plans if state dollars don’t come through.

“At every step of the process, institutions of higher learning, including UK, will be making their respective case,” Blanton said.