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NKU stands to gain (and lose) in Bevin's budget

Posted at 1:36 AM, Feb 05, 2016

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. -- Northern Kentucky University stands to gain and lose under new Gov. Matt Bevin's proposed budget.

On one hand, NKU would get $10.7 million in new annual funding over the next two years; the university says Bevin recognizes NKU is "historically underfunded compared with other Kentucky comprehensive universities."

But on the other hand, the first-term Republican governor has proposed statewide funding cuts of 4.5 percent this year and 9 percent over the next two years. Bevin's proposed cuts are not across the board: He shielded spending on K-12 public education, programs for military veterans, health insurance for the poor and disabled and drug treatment programs. The governor also wants to spend $21.7 million to give raises to state troopers, corrections officers and entry level social workers and clinicians.

With state universities not exempt, NKU President Geoffrey Mearns is concerned "that the proposed funding cuts to higher education would substantially dilute the positive benefits of that funding increase."

Mearns, along with faculty, staff, students and alumni, plan to urge state lawmakers to reverse or reduce Bevin's budget cuts; they'll attend a meeting of the Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus on Saturday morning at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.

Bevin Wants More Degrees in 'Things People Want'

Last week, Bevin said he wants Kentucky's public colleges and universities to turn out more engineers and fewer French literature scholars, by moving the commonwealth to a performance-based plan: Colleges and universities would get state tax dollars based on criteria such as graduation rates of certain degree programs.

Bevin said Kentucky has a workforce shortage, and part of the problem, he believes, is the public schools are not turning out degrees of the "things people want."

IN DEPTH: How higher-ed leaders want Bevin to boost spending

Under his plan, a college that graduates more engineers, for example, might get more state funding than one that has more French lit majors.

Some Republican leaders say they are frustrated the cost of college keeps increasing and they continue to hear from major manufacturers and other industries that they cannot find qualified workers.

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers pointed to a 2012 study by Deloitte that said Kentucky needed nearly an additional 4,000 physicians.

"We get calls consistently, consistently wanting to know from parents why my child can't get into a (physical therapy) program or (occupational therapy) program or radiologist program," Stivers said. "And we're not ramping up in those areas where there is a true need."

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said it is not right for the government to tell people what they should study.

"The whole goal of public higher education is so that people can decide what they want to be and how they want to educate themselves for their professional lives or their lives for their jobs," Stumbo said.