February 7, 2012

U of L president warns of the consequences of state cuts

By Rae Hodge–

FRANKFORT – In his 2012-2014 budget presentation to the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education, University of Louisville President James Ramsey warned the committee that if the 6.4 percent cuts to higher education proposed by Governor Beshear were enacted, the damage could be severe. Ramsey said that of the $150 million in net appropriations that the university receives from the state, roughly $9 million would be cut.

“We operate in a market, and we’ve not been able to do what we’d like to do in terms of salary increases,” said Ramsey, while speaking to the board, “There could be layoffs.”

The Cardinal Covenant program, designed to provide for students whose family income is 150 percent beneath the poverty line, was specifically mentioned and would also be one of the programs cut. “So what’s a nine million dollar cut to us mean?” said Ramsey, “It means we’re going to cut scholarship programs for students. Not just merit-based aid but need-based aid. We can’t grow the Cardinal Covenant program.”

Ramsey also pointed out that budget cuts could slow student body growth on campus. “We’ve got to debate whether or not we can grow even a hundred students and have a freshman class of 2,700.” However, Ramsey added that additions to campus housing are still in the works and that university provost Shirley Willihnganz is “working on another project right now with a private developer for 300 hundred more beds.“

Ramsey’s presentation to the board on Feb. 2 comes less than one week before students from U of L and Kentucky colleges are set to protest budget cuts and tuition increases inside the state capitol on Feb. 7.

Not longer than one month ago, Provost Willihnganz, in anticipation of state cuts, sent out a letter to top U of L staff informing them that, “In order to prepare the University to manage potential budget cuts with the least adverse impact on mission-critical needs, all vacant positions are frozen, effective January 10.”

Ramsey received a 25 percent pay raise last month, and his total salary in will reach $2.6 million in 2014 if he completes several goals, which allow a combination of bonuses. The raise comes from the U of L foundation; scholarship money often comes from the U of L Foundation, which, although not composed of student tuition dollars, funds Ramsey’s salary.

Mike Curtin, the Vice President of Finance for U of L, when asked whether the U of L foundation should help make up for lost funds rather than grant a pay raise for the president, said, “I don’t think two are really related, to the extent that [the U of L foundation] already provides support [to U of L].”

Despite 11 consecutive years of tuition hikes, the most recent at six percent, U of L students can also expect to see another increase next year. Ramsey said in a press interview immediately following his presentation, “I cannot imagine a situation where there is not some tuition increase.”

Curtin said that he currently expects tuition to go up five percent, though he notes that number could go up or down.

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