Layoffs, tuition hikes: Track budget cuts at Kentucky universities

Kentucky’s state universities are grappling with nearly a decade of budget cuts, about $170 million in all. Over the next two years, they’ll have to cut another 4.5 percent. As the schools prepare their biennial budgets, which have to be ready in June, they are announcing exactly how they will address deficits caused by decreased state support and increased costs for pensions and health care. Nationally, Kentucky is losing ground against other states, which are starting to reinvest in higher education.

Here’s what’s known (updated May 26, 2016):

Eastern Kentucky University: President Michael Benson announced a 5 percent tuition increase will still leave a $7.3 million hole. A budget review committee has been meeting since April, but so far no programs or positions have been cut. The Board of Regents has approved a temporary hiring freeze and adjustments to the vacation accrual and university cell phone policies. There is also an ongoing review of faculty workload and reimbursement rates for state contracts/programs. The board will meet to adopt a budget on May 25.

Kentucky Community and Technical College System: Facing a $26 million shortfall caused by declining enrollment and a decade of budget cuts from state government, KCTCS will cut 506 positions, including 170 faculty and staff jobs that were occupied. The system’s 16 colleges have cut 191 faculty positions and 315 staff posts. Because many of the positions were vacant or were vacated through retirements, only 45 faculty and 125 staff were actually laid off.

Kentucky State University: The Frankfort school was exempted from cuts because of its already precarious financial situation.

Morehead State University: In March, Morehead announced a week-long unpaid furlough for all faculty and staff to cope with a nearly $10 million deficit. In May, officials announced the elimination of 64 positions in an email to faculty and staff. Of the 64 positions proposed to be eliminated, 25 are filled staff positions, 20 are vacant staff positions, 10 are vacant instructor positions, six are filled instructor positions, and four are vacant tenure or tenure-track faculty positions, according to the email. President Wayne Andrews has also announced he’ll retire next year.

Murray State University: Current budget recommendations include the elimination of 12 filled positions and 30 empty ones. Several student service units will reduce hours. Program eliminations include men’s tennis and the Office of Regional Outreach. The university will also phase out its bachelor’s degree in interior design and its master’s degree in chemical manufacturing management. The Board of Regents will vote on the proposed cuts June 10.

Northern Kentucky University: To fill an $8 million budget gap, NKU will cut 31 empty faculty positions and six faculty, along with 32 vacant staff positions and 36 staff. In total, 105 positions will be lost.

University of Kentucky: University officials said they hope to save $6 million with a reorganization that will eliminate 75 jobs and a variety of other cost-saving maneuvers. Those measures include shifting the cost of health insurance for county cooperative extension agents to each county served; cutting $500,000 from operations of the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, which runs the county extension service; cutting $1 million from the College of Medicine by reducing expenses for instruction and research; and cutting $500,000 from the facilities management budget.

UK also recently announced 30 staff positions will be eliminated due to a $4 million deficit in the College of Arts and Science. However, this is unrelated to state budget cuts and is caused by a decrease in the number of international students coming for English as a Second Language instruction.

University of Louisville: University officials have not yet announced how they will deal with state funding cuts.

Western Kentucky University: The school’s $6 million deficit was caused by state cuts and a nearly $2 million contribution to the state retirement system, up 48 percent from the year before. WKU will also reorganize the university’s administration, and is looking at programs that need to be “consolidated, reduced or eliminated.” In addition, the grounds and buildings department was privatized and moved to management by Sodexo, a private company.

Linda Blackford: 859-231-1359, @lbblackford