Relish tuition cap, but demand fully funding top-20 plan

Governor-elect Steve Beshear already faces an important test of his campaign promises on higher education: whether to override the Council on Postsecondary Education’s recommendations and fully fund UK’s Top 20 Business Plan.

Under the funding proposal the CPE approved Monday, UK would receive about $9.5 million less in general-fund increases for the 2008-10 biennium than the Top 20 Business Plan calls for, the Kernel reported yesterday.

UK requested a $19.8 million funding increase for 2008-09 and a $20.9 million increase on top of that for 2009-10, for a total of $60.5 million in increases over two years. The CPE recommended an increase of $17.6 million for 2008-09 and a $15.8 million increase on top of that in 2009-10, totaling only $51 million over two years.

But the governor and the General Assembly are not bound by the council’s recommendations in the budget process. When Beshear submits his budget proposal to the legislature early next year, he should follow through on his promise to push for full funding of UK’s Top 20 Business Plan.

That money is even more essential because of the 9 percent limit on tuition increases the CPE set for UK on Monday.

UK President Lee Todd told legislators that UK would need full funding of the top-20 plan just to prevent a double-digit tuition increase, the Kernel reported Oct. 19. If the university is both underfunded and constrained in increasing tuition, it will have to stall progress on the top-20 goal, meaning fewer faculty hires and slower reductions in class sizes.

Becoming a top-20 public research university by 2020 is not merely an internal goal of UK’s — it was mandated by the General Assembly in House Bill 1 of 1997. The university cannot achieve that state-mandated goal without proper funding from state government.

Students should be glad to know that they will not see a double-digit tuition increase, but that is no cause for complacency. The governor-elect and state legislators need to know that their constituents care about the quality of education at UK and want to see the Top 20 Business Plan fully funded.

The state legislature will convene in January, so it is not too soon for students to start contacting legislators and pushing them to fully fund the top-20 plan. Legislators’ phone numbers, e-mail addresses and mailing addresses are available on the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission’s Web site (

Even if Beshear overrides the CPE recommendations in his budget proposal, the General Assembly could go back and cut down UK’s funding. Students should get involved to ensure that does not happen.