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University of Kentucky Raises Tuition, Fees

University of Kentucky officials have proposed an increase in mandatory housing and meal fees. That’s on top of a plan to raise tuition six percent. At a budget form today, university treasurer Angie Martin announced that next year’s students will pay nine percent more for on-campus housing and an additional three percent for their meal plan. Although faculty and staff will receive their first pay raise in three years, Martin says some departments will have their budgets cut by 2.5 percent, despite the extra revenue from fee increases.

The budget proposal will raise the overall cost of attendance, including tuition and fees, to $15,880 per year, per student. It will be submitted to the university’s Board of Trustees on May 3rd.

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UK Presidential Search Committee Finishes Interviews

by Alan Lytle, Kentucky Public Radio

A University of Kentucky official says the school’s presidential search is on course after a series of interviews with prospects this week.

The group charged with hiring the next president for the University of Kentucky has finished three days’ worth of interviews and says the list of candidates will be whittled down to five or fewer by April 11th. UK Board of Trustees Chair Brit Brockman says those candidates who have made the initial cut can look forward to a comprehensive vetting process.

“We’ll contact the people they put down as references, and we’ll contact people they may not have put down as references, and we’ll do background checks, et cetera,” he says.

Brockman will not divulge how many candidates were interviewed or how many are still in the running. He did reveal on Thursday that many of the hopefuls have Kentucky ties but that the prospects come from both coasts and many places in between. The finalists will be reviewed by the board of trustees, who hope to hire a new president by May.

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Leadership Responds to Criticism of Higher Education Cuts

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

Kentucky’s legislative leaders continue to push back against criticism of proposed funding cuts to higher education.

Two percent cuts to universities and community colleges aren’t sitting well with the presidents of the schools, who say layoffs may be unavoidable. But House Speaker Greg Stumbo says these are tough times and there must be shared sacrifice.

“If we restore the funding, then we ought make them hold the tuition levels at the same levels that they are right now,” says Stumbo. “If we restore the funding, that ought to be the goal. And we ought to require them to improve their graduation rate.”

Senate President David Williams agrees, saying there must be shared sacrifice. He says he doesn’t think anyone really believes a two percent reduction in funding to any organization should affect its operations in any meaningful way.

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Students Rally In Frankfort Against Proposed Cuts

By Tony McVeigh, Kentucky Public Radio

University students, concerned about the possibility of additional budget cuts to higher education, rallied Tuesday in the rotunda of the Kentucky State Capitol.

It was a small rally compared to previous years, with less than 100 students in attendance. But organizers say snow spoiled the original date and midterms were a factor this week. In his keynote address, Gov. Beshear wasted no time blasting proposed education cuts in the budget outline unveiled last week by House leaders. Beshear says rolling back two instructional days in local districts “is not a good idea.”

“Another idea floating around out here right now is to cut higher education two percent in each of the next two fiscal years,” said Beshear. “Another idea floating around out here is to have no capital construction on any college campus over the next two years.”

Beshear reminded students the cuts were not part of his budget plan, and urged them to send lawmakers a message.

You must step up, my friends,” said Beshear. “You and your friends on the college campuses throughout this state – you, the students, the faculty, the staff, the administration of our higher education institutions -must make your voices known.”

Next up was Finance Secretary Jonathan Miller, who tried to liven things up a bit with some cheerleading.

“I am Kentucky’s future!” coaxed Miller. “Let me hear you say it!”

“I am Kentucky’s future!” shouted the students.

Recalling huge rallies of previous years, when students were packed in tight – their cheers reverberating off the marble walls for all to hear – Miller warned budget cuts can mean higher tuition.

“And if the cut is really bad, potentially we might go back to the days of double-digit tuition,” said Miller. “That’s unacceptable to Gov. Beshear. That’s unacceptable to me, and I know it’s unacceptable to you as well. So, we need to have your voices heard! We need you to get to all your legislators and tell them, please spare higher education from the dramatic cuts.”

UK grad student Chris Crumrine’s listening. The student representative on the Council on Postsecondary Education says double-digit tuition increases in the middle of a recession would be unconscionable.

“I realize that institutions are all strapped,” said Crumrine. “But families are strapped, too. Students are strapped, too. And that size of a tuition increase in this current climate, I think, is asking a whole lot.”

Until lawmakers approve a budget, tuition rates remain a question mark. But Colton Jessie of Western Kentucky University hopes lawmakers are listening, because he says the state cannot cut its way to prosperity.

“There are many things at stake if higher education suffers another cut,” said Jessie. “And we need to see that a Kentucky education is a priority now and for our future. An educated Kentucky will work to create a better economy. An educated Kentucky will commit less crime, bettering our communities and lessening the burden on our expensive prison system.”

Chelsea Atwater got the final word. The Eastern Kentucky University pre-med student says several generations of her family have benefited from college educations, and she wants the same for all Kentuckians.

“As the student leaders of our respective institutions,” said Atwater, “I challenge each of you today to return to your campuses and hometowns and find creative ways to promote and demonstrate the value of a Kentucky education – creating a more fiscally sound, civically engaged, literate and healthy commonwealth for years to come.”

As the students filtered out of the rotunda and headed home, behind-the-scenes work on the state budget continued. But House leaders now say it may be the second week of March before they can move a new state spending plan to the Senate.

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Local News

Lawmakers Finish University Budget Reviews

Kentucky House committee reviews of university budgets have concluded in Frankfort, with appearances by the presidents of the state’s two largest universities.

It’s been 13 years since passage of higher education reforms and University of Kentucky President Lee Todd is again calling for bold new thinking. Take capital projects, for instance. Todd says lawmakers want U-K and U-of-L to be Top 20 universities, but the schools have to compete against other public colleges for capital project funds.

“The two research universities are reaching a maturity level now, where we need to be given some flexibility and a pool of capital to look at what would meet our needs,” he said.

When pressed on whether, in these tight budget times, they prefer funds to maintain and operate current buildings, or money for new structures, Todd and University of Louisville President Jim Ramsey both preferred M and O money.

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Daniels Announces More Budget Cuts

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels says a continuing decline in tax revenue has forced the state to impose more spending cuts.

Daniels announced Friday that Indiana will cut $150 million in funding for state colleges and universites to close the budget gap.

He says university leaders will work with the commission for higher education in deciding exactly where the cuts will be made.

Daniels added that other steps will be taken because of missed revenue targets, including a reduction in the state-owned fleet of vehicles.

This is one of hundreds of examples of small things, some very tiny things that add up if you do them relentlessly and are willing to look in every corner for something that might stretch a tax dollar. Cars (are) not the smallest example at all,” he said.

Indiana tax collections for November were $144 million below forecast and are $475 million below target for the first five months of the fiscal year.

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Local News

New CPE Chief Begins Work

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

The new president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education is on the job.

After a nationwide search, the CPE hired Robert King, former chancellor of the State University of New York, as its new president. King, who headed an Arizona charitable foundation after leaving New York, had until April to report to work in Kentucky, but he’s already on the job.

“Governor Beshear had made it clear to me when I met with him in December, that the sooner I could get here, the better,” King said.

King says he’s been monitoring higher education developments in Kentucky since his hiring and plans to hit the ground running. His early arrival means he will be in the state when the 2009 legislative session resumes February 3rd.