Bevin's College Budget: Playing Favorites

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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In part one of this two-part series, we looked at Governor Bevin’s college budget and its effect on Kentucky State University, an historically-black college in Frankfort. We noted the large percentage cuts to their budget, and asked the Governor to explain what he is trying to do to that school.

Now it’s time to ask the second important question about Bevin’s college budget:

Why does he so obviously favor some schools over others?

For starters, we need to refer back to a table we included in our last article – the one showing percentage increases and decreases by year and by school. The first two columns (after the names) compare what the Governor’s budget allocates for 2017 and 2018 to what the school is currently receiving. The second two columns compare what the budget allocates to what the schools actually requested.

  FY 2017

Diff Current

FY 2018

Diff Current

FY 2017

Diff Requested

FY 2018

Diff Requested

Eastern Kentucky University 1.03% -2.70% -2.38% -8.40%
Kentucky State University -5.94% -15.74% -12.47% -22.52%
Morehead State University 2.63% 0.22% -2.09% -7.38%
Murray State University 1.51% -3.32% -3.18% -11.09%
Northern Kentucky University 3.11% -0.87% -2.58% -10.27%
University of Kentucky 8.16% 15.16% -1.18% -3.65%
University of Louisville 1.65% 0.60% -1.71% -5.59%
Western Kentucky University 1.29% -2.75% -2.41% -8.88%
Kentucky Community and Technical College System 2.16% -1.13% -3.09% -10.10%

The first thing you notice is that the numbers are not the same. In fact, they are all over the map, with some schools getting increases while other schools are getting cuts. It does not look like an equitable treatment at all. So, the first question we have to ask is:

Governor, why did you increase budgets for some schools for the coming year, when you said we needed to cut, cut, cut?

I will assume, for the moment, that if Governor Bevin were sitting across from me, he would explain that education is one of his priorities, and that he and his staff decided to put some increases in place for universities, and find the cuts elsewhere. And that would be a good answer, and one I would applaud.

Why the UK Favoritism?

But, look again at those numbers. If the Gov were indeed sitting across from me, I would have these follow-up questions, having to do with equitable treatment of our various universities:

  • Why did you bump some schools a few percentage points from their current budget in 2017, but increase UK so much more than anyone else?
  • Why did you then double the bump for UK in the second year, even as you were cutting other schools?
  • Why did you cut so much from everyone’s 2018 request except UK?
  • Are you trying to close Murray, Northern, and KCTC in 2018?

I understand that UK is supposed to be our “flagship” school. But the difference in treatment in the midst of supposed across-the-board cuts is hard to understand. UK’s budget goes up 15% from current spending, while almost every other school gets cut from current levels. If UK’s budget only increased 9.5% in 2018 instead of 15%, you could keep every other school at their current spending level for the next two years, and still have a lower overall spend in 2018 than the proposed budget.

Read that again. We could increase UK by almost 10% from current levels, keep everyone else flat, and STILL spend less in 2018 than what is in Bevin’s college budget.

Do I think that’s the best idea? No … but it makes more sense than the numbers we’re seeing. Without further explanation from the Governor, it seems that the University of Kentucky is the fair-haired child, and the other schools are fighting for the table scraps.

So Governor, can you explain why you favored one school over all the others?

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