NKU cuts 105 jobs after state spending cuts

Posted at 4:40 PM, May 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-19 00:12:44-04

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. — Faced with a gaping $8 million budget gap, Northern Kentucky University is cutting 105 full-time jobs, including 37 faculty members.

Gov. Matt Bevin's cuts to higher education, soaring pension costs and a dip in enrollment were all factors in the budget gap.

A judge ruled Wednesday that Bevin could make his cuts without lawmakers' approval.

"I know that the decisions that we were compelled to make will impose real hardships on those who are directly affected by those decisions," President Geoffrey Mearns said. "But I also know that our NKU community is resilient. We have overcome many challenges in the past, and we will overcome these together.

Kentucky lawmakers cut funding to NKU by $2.1 million to $46.4 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Enrollment has dipped 6 percent to 14,720 over the last three years and is projected to decline another 2.5 percent next year and 1.5 percent in 2017-18. Both estimates are on the conservative side, Mearns said.

The university's payments into the state pension system have skyrocketed from $3.9 million in 2010 to $15.3 million this year. The projected cost for 2018 is $19.4 million.

Mearns, who laid out the budget situation in a presentation here, said 2 percent of NKU's operating budget went into pension costs in 2010 and that nearly 10 percent of the budget will be dedicated to the pension fund by 2018.

While most of the jobs that are being cut will be vacant positions, 42 current employees will be laid off. Mearns said the jobs will be eliminated in phases over the coming months, pending a review by university lawyers and other factors.

The cuts will affect all six colleges and nearly every administrative department, he said.

NKU Board of Regents Chairman Nathan Smith said that these were the toughest times he's seen at NKU during his six years on the board.

But he praised Mearns and the administration for an inclusive process to find the best way to make the cuts while preserving NKU's prospects and finances.

"I can tell you that our future looks bright thanks to the leadership of this board and of President Mearns and his team – and because of the dedication of our faculty and staff," Smith said.