UK bracing for 'modest' tuition increase next year

University of Kentucky officials are bracing for "modest" tuition increases next year — perhaps 5 percent — as state support declines and costs increase by $17.5 million.

UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. said the state House's proposed 1.4 percent budget cut for universities could dash his hope of providing salary increases to staff and faculty who have gone two years without raises.

Todd told reporters after UK's Board of Trustees' meeting he's not giving up, but early signs aren't good.

"It really hits the classroom," he said. "We don't have many options except for state funding and tuition or further cost cutting."

UK looks to get squeezed on several fronts. The House's version of the budget calls for a 1.4 percent cut, which will amount to more than $4 million for UK. That is the most Kentucky can trim from public universities without losing several hundred million in federal stimulus money.

House leaders also announced they wouldn't provide maintenance and operations money for new buildings opening over the next two years. That will force UK to find another $4 million.

"That's what I had expected," Todd said, when told it was left out of the House's proposed budget. "We'll see what the Senate has to say next."

In addition, Todd said early budget estimates show $17.5 million in rising costs, such as utility bills and health care for employees.

Todd said budget cuts and rising costs won't be made up solely by increasing tuition rates, even though revenue from student payments is a growing part of UK's academic budget. This year, UK expects about $272 million from tuition and fees, up from $253 million last year. In comparison, the state's funding level is about $310 million.

"We're cautious with tuition," Todd said. "We can't raise tuition to make up for a deficit like that, so like every year, we wait 'til the final buzzer and see what we have to deal with."

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education is scheduled to set tuition caps April 23. Last year, it set those limits on a sliding scale with community colleges capped at 3 percent, regional universities at 4 percent and UK and the University of Louisville at 5 percent. Todd said he expects it to be about 5 percent again next year.

Angie Martin, UK's treasurer and vice president in charge of budgeting, said the tuition increase will likely be "modest" and would be in the single digits. She said UK's trustees will be asked to approve next year's tuition rates at its April 20 meeting.

Also at Tuesday's meeting:

■ The board named three honorary degree recipients who will be honored during May's graduation ceremony: Judith G. Clabes, former editor of The Kentucky Post, who helped found the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center at UK; Daniel Libeskind, an assistant professor at the UK College of Design from 1973 to 1975 who designed the master plan for the new development on New York's World Trade Center site; and Robert Straus, a UK professor from 1956 to 1987 who pioneered alcoholism research.

■ The board designated five faculty members as university research professors who will receive $40,000 each to focus exclusively on their specific research area next year.

They are Kimberly Ward Anderson, a Gill Eminent professor of chemical engineering who will expand her cancer cell research; Sumit Ranjan Das, a professor of physics and astronomy who will apply string theory to predict size and distance of galaxies; Pradyumna "Paul" Karan, a professor of geography who will research inhabitants in the Himalaya region; Stephen Randal Voss, an associate professor of biology who will examine tissue generation of salamanders; and Sidney Waldo "Wally" Whiteheart, a professor of cellular biology who will track platelet secretion's effects on blood vessels.