Bevin's College Budget: Racism, Equity, and Other Questions

Bruce Maples (

After hearing various university presidents utter dire warnings about the effects of Governor Bevin’s college budget, we decided to do some digging ourselves. We wondered about the KSU cuts, and if this historically black college was targeted. We wondered about the UK cuts, and how bad they really were. And we wondered if the numbers would tell us anything, or provide any answers.

Having dug into the numbers, we’ve got two questions.

  • Is Governor Bevin’s higher education budget racist?
  • Is Governor Bevin’s higher education budget equitable?

We’ll tackle the first question in this article, and the second question in a future article. Let’s get started.

The Raw Numbers

Here is a table taken straight from the Governor’s budget document. With all the big numbers, it’s not very helpful or clear. I’m including it so that if you want, you can work with the raw numbers just as we did.

  Current Revised Requested Requested Budgeted Budgeted
  FY 2016 FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2017 FY 2018
Eastern Kentucky University 363,671,300 376,404,100 386,276,400 367,433,800 353,842,500
Kentucky State University 62,236,100 66,880,100 67,680,100 58,541,000 52,441,100
Morehead State University 255,530,200 267,835,800 276,515,100 262,243,400 256,097,700
Murray State University 189,284,900 198,450,700 205,824,500 192,149,600 182,991,400
Northern Kentucky University 236,415,800 250,235,900 261,177,900 243,768,600 234,350,800
University of Kentucky 3,355,808,700 3,673,155,300 4,010,850,900 3,629,806,400 3,864,587,500
University of Louisville 1,221,311,500 1,263,023,000 1,301,441,600 1,241,451,000 1,228,670,200
Western Kentucky University 393,205,800 408,119,900 419,674,800 398,290,600 382,390,000
Kentucky Community and Technical College System 879,557,000 927,190,500 967,375,900 898,556,100 869,654,500

Here’s a much more helpful table, using percentages. It shows the difference in Governor Bevin’s proposed budget for 2017 and 2018 from both the current level of spending, and the requested levels of spending. In other words, it compares what the Governor budgeted both to the current budget, and to the budgets the schools requested.

For example, the Gov’s budget as proposed actually gives EKU a slight increase from their current budget in 2017, and a 2.7% decrease from their current budget in 2018. As far as what EKU actually requested for those two years, the Governor’s budget cuts their requests by 2.38% and 8.4%, respectively. So, EKU gets a slight bump in budget in 2017, but then a cut below current levels in 2018. And, if EKU’s requests reflected higher enrollment, their budget-per-student will be worse than these numbers.

  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%

Kentucky State University

So, right off the bat, you see that Kentucky State is getting clobbered. They are the only university to get an actual CUT in the 2017 budget from their CURRENT amount, not their requested, and they get cut even further in 2018 from their CURRENT funding levels, much less their requested amounts. So, the obvious question: Is the Bevin higher ed budget racist, in either intent or in effect?

Well, it certainly LOOKS that way. But let’s put one more table on the table, as it were.

2013 Enrollment 2016 Budget
Per Student
2017 Req
Per Student
2018 Req
Per Student
2017 Budget
Per Student
2018 Budget
Per Student
Eastern Kentucky University 16,111 22,573 23,363 23,976 22,806 21,963
Kentucky State University 2,533 24,570 26,404 26,719 23,111 20,703
Morehead State University 11,358 22,498 23,581 24,345 23,089 22,548
Murray State University 10,943 17,297 18,135 18,809 17,559 16,722
Northern Kentucky University 15,283 15,469 16,373 17,089 15,950 15,334
University of Kentucky 29,385 114,201 125,001 136,493 123,526 131,516
University of Louisville 22,529 54,211 56,062 57,767 55,105 54,537
Western Kentucky University 20,456 19,222 19,951 20,516 19,471 18,693
Kentucky Community and Technical College System 92,365 9,523 10,038 10,473 9,728 9,415

This table takes the lump state appropriation and divides it by the number of students enrolled, using the latest data I could find. I know that this is a somewhat simplistic approach, but perhaps it can show us something. (Throw out, for the moment, the UK and UofL numbers, because they are obviously meaningless in this context. I would like to understand their overall budgets better, but for now we will move on.)

So, you can see that on a raw per-student basis, KSU is spending more than any of the other state schools outside the UK/UofL numbers. Their 2017 and 2018 requests took that even further, while what the Governor’s budget actually allocates in 2017 moves them back into rough alignment with the others. So, Governor, if you want to use this argument as to why your cuts of KSU aren’t racist in effect, then you can probably make that case.

But, Governor, can you then explain the 2018 number? Why, if you’ve tried to move KSU’s per-student number to roughly equal with the others, do you then cut it another $3,000 per student? Can you explain why you have cut KSU’s overall budget by over 15% from 2016 to 2018? I really don’t want to believe that your goal is to cripple this school, or close it completely – but that is going to be the effect.

The point of this part of the analysis is clear:

Governor, you need to explain what you are trying to do to KSU.

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