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House continues questioning Kentucky State University, spells out potential baliout measure

Kentucky lawmakers continued their efforts to monitor Kentucky State University’s (KSU) recovery from years of financial issues that include alleged financial misconduct by a former university president.

During the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education on Thursday, legislators received an update from university leaders and discussed providing the state’s only historically Black university with $23 million to alleviate its projected budget shortfall.

KSU’s financial issues began in 2009 when its expenses began exceeding its income. The university’s financial situation worsened in 2019 under former KSU President Christopher Brown II and now must consider borrowing a line of credit that school officials say could be depleted by mid-April. Subcommittee members were clear in their understanding of the university’s mission but equally clear that the recovery must include the active involvement of the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE). Governor Andy Beshear appointed CPE President Aaron Thompson to investigate the university’s financial condition and question the processes under Brown’s time as President.

“This is an extremely precarious situation. The longer we wait to solve these issues, the harder they become to resolve. It’s important to note that this money was not included initially in our budget plans this year, so the infusion of funds here and the situation itself demands strong accountability measures for all stakeholders, external and internal alike,” said Representative James Tipton, who chairs the subcommittee. “I also want to stress that we are confident CPE’s stewardship and the mechanisms put in place will help turn the tide soon.”

Tipton filed an emergency provision, HB 250, that appropriates $23 million to KSU and requires significant oversight from the Council. CPE — Kentucky’s higher education coordinating agency — is currently helping the university implement a new management and improvement plan, which includes 14 recommendations to foster organizational and financial stability moving forward. The university and CPE must also submit quarterly updates on its efforts to the General Assembly each year.

While expressing concerns about the university’s culture of accountability and transparency, lawmakers recognized that the financial health and success of KSU are vital to the students and community it serves.

“There is still room for a great deal of improvement here, but I think it is a good sign to see KSU’s Board of Regents and leaders statewide engaged in this process,” said Representative Bobby McCool of Johnson County. “There are good people that go there, good people that work there. They deserve better and taxpayers deserve better. Bit by bit, we are getting KSU back on the right path.”

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