Kentucky's two research universities would lose almost $30 million under Gov. Steve Beshear's proposed two-year budget.
If lawmakers approve the proposal, it probably means tuition increases, fewer scholarships, less recruitment of top faculty and program losses at the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, presidents of the universities told the House budget subcommittee on postsecondary education on Thursday.
"We understand the very difficult budget you all are facing, but now's the time we need to do everything we can to support higher education," said U of L President James Ramsey.
U of L has avoided layoffs, but it might have to lose employees with this next cut, he said.
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Capilouto did not specifically address layoffs, but after the meeting spokesman Jay Blanton said: "At this point, all options are on the table."
Beshear's budget recommends a 6.4 percent cut to postsecondary education, compared to 8 percent for most state agencies.
Ramsey and UK President Eli Capilouto outlined gains that both schools have made since 1997 when a landmark higher education reform act was passed. But both schools have lost tens of millions of dollars in state funding during the past few biennia, which is hindering their progress.
UK, for example, has lost nearly $50 million in state funding since the 2007-08 school year. Beshear's budget would cut an additional $19.4 million during the next two years. To put that number in perspective, Capilouto pointed out that $19 million is the yearly budget of UK's libraries.
"Students will be the guideposts as we go through these tough choices, and they will be tough choices," Capilouto said. "We're going to have to be more creative as we work with all our schools and departments."
The presidents had a sympathetic ear from many committee members.
"We find ourselves in a very stressful situation on higher education," said chairman Arnold Simpson. "We've been shirking on our responsibility to fund at a level we would like in higher education ... we've done that with the recognition that higher education is our future."
Legislators were also largely complimentary of UK's proposal to turn over management and replacement of its aging dormitories to a private developer.
The deal between UK and Education Realty Trust is still in negotiations. Regardless, UK is planning to build a 600-bed dorm on campus starting this spring.