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UK, UofL presidents speak to appropriations, revenue committee about priorities and funding issues

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The presidents of Kentucky’s two largest public universities appeared before a legislative committee on Tuesday discussing their hopes for the future.

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto told the Interim Joint Appropriations and Revenue Committee that over the next five years UK must address a $200 million gap between current, expected revenues, and anticipated needs.

Those include anticipated fixed cost increases, providing pay raises to retain faculty and staff, a declining number of eligible graduating high school students, growing health care and benefits costs and continued lower financial support from the state.

UK President Eli Capilouto and Louisville President Neeli Bendapud spoke to lawmakers Tuesday. (Kentucky Today/Tom Latek)

He described the first phase of UK’s path forward.

“We’re going to grow the first-time, first-year enrollment.  We’re going to improve the first- to second-year retention rate,” Capilouto said.  “We’ve developed new online programs, expanded certificate programs, (and) recruited ‘near-degree’ students, those who dropped out before completing their degrees.”

Capilouto said they have also modernized their procure-to-pay management system and are partnering on an innovative carbon reduction program through Robinson Forest.

The second phase includes generating new revenue, maximizing alternative revenue streams, improve efficiency and effectiveness across UK’s operations, expand the return on outreach and service, as well as examining their current structure and staffing.

He noted funding issues have been offset somewhat by record research funding.  There was an increase from $285 million in Fiscal Year 2015 to $390 million in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi told the panel a lot of progress has been made since 1998 as the school tries to realize its goal of becoming a premier metropolitan research university.

“The average freshman ACT score has risen from 21.4 to 25.6. The six-year graduation rate, which has jumped from 30.1 percent to 56.6 percent, is still not where I would like it to be but is steadily increasing.”

She said the six-year graduation rate Is actually quite an achievement. “While it’s not a higher number, we have closed the gap between majority and under-represented minority graduation rates. That is something to be proud about, that we were able to deliver on this.”

During that same 20-year period, Bendapudi says the number of baccalaureate degrees awarded his jumped from 1,734 to 3,040; and the number of doctoral degrees has risen from 76 to 165.

Her funding requests for the future are aimed at meeting marketplace demands, to alleviate the critical nursing shortage, educating cutting-edge engineering students and tech workforce needs.

Maintaining infrastructure is important, she said, along with estimated deferred maintenance and renovation needs of more than $1 billion.

Bendapudi said she would also like to see an increase in state performance-based funding where a school’s state money is based on university and student achievement. She also would like a new round of state funding for the Bucks for Brains program, which U of L would match.

Neither university president offered specific funding requests during their remarks before the committee.

The 2020 General Assembly, which convenes in January, will be responsible for a two-year state spending plan starting on July 1 of next year.

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