A couple weeks ago we voiced our support for the University of Pikeville becoming a state university. Something like this needs to happen in order to lower tuition costs for Eastern Kentucky college students and establish the region's first four-year state college.
But a bill being championed by House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Rep. Leslie Combs, both Eastern Kentucky legislators, goes about funding UPike as a state school in the wrong way.
Their bill, which was filed last week, calls for the use of "unobligated" multi-county coal severance funds to bring UPike into the state university fold, taking away millions of dollars from 12 Eastern Kentucky counties that could go for projects such as waterline extensions or a much needed sewage plant here in Perry County, the latter of which was recently delayed by Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency.
We agree with Stumbo that creating a more affordable post-secondary institution in Eastern Kentucky will ultimately pay dividends for Kentucky. There is no argument with that notion.
But if UPike is to become a state university, it should be funded as any other state school, such as Eastern Kentucky University or Morehead State. If the state can't afford it, then so be it.
There is little sense in forcing 12 counties who already suffer from high poverty rates and can least afford it to shoulder the burden of transforming UPike into a state university when there are 108 other counties that could potentially benefit.
A state university should be funded by the entire commonwealth, and not a portion of the counties that the school could possibly serve.
In the end we hope the legislature can hammer out an agreement on UPike and bring it into the fold, but using coal severance dollars is not the way to do it.