April 23, 2013

Another year, another tuition hike: State-mandated increases top U of L budget forum talking points

By Maggie Cunningham–

University of Louisville President Dr. James Ramsey presented an online budget forum earlier this week. He encouraged the entire student body to attend.
University of Louisville President Dr. James Ramsey presented an online budget forum earlier this week. He encouraged the entire student body to attend.

Students will see a raise in undergraduate tuition by 3.1 percent in the coming year. The increase was approved at Thursday’s budget forum and represents the smallest tuition hike in recent years.

The overall budget for the 2014 fiscal year totals $13,955,400. This ranges from student, faculty and research needs as well as structural fixes.

U of L is looking to add an extra 100 students to the incoming freshmen class making it a rough 2,750 students for the class. The university is also estimating a savings of $2,750,000 from the voluntary separations recently organized.
Expenditures for the budget would include a recurring salary increase from a 4 percent pool, as well as a financial aid increase to match to 3.1 percent tuition increase for students.

The three step process for approving the Univeristy of Louisville’s budget of the 2014 fiscal year started  with a budget forum on Monday, March 15. The U of L President, Dr. James Ramsey reviewed several important topics before revealing the budget itself.

“We were given a mandate from the Kentucky General Assembly 15 years ago to be among the nation’s best universities, and we’re making progress,” Ramsey said. “We’d like to say that we’re on a pretty good trajectory.”

Ramsey also explained that unemployment rates and the state budget have a great effect on the schools’ budget. Ramsey says, “The biggest challenge we face and will continue to face is economic, particularly the state budget.”

The state’s overall unemployment rate, like the majority of the country, has seen several spikes and drops over the last decade.

“This is important because if people are working, they are paying sales taxes and they are paying income taxes. That makes up about 75 percent of the states’ general fund,” said Ramsey.

Alternately, the economy and state revenues are growing. Unfortunately, the state expenditures are also growing; this means that higher education does not get the funding that it should ordinarily receive.

Corrections spending and debt spending both also get prioritized above higher education.  Instead of giving more funds to schools and students, the state must instead pay for prisoners of the state to remain behind bars. “For every prisoner, you could be funding at least three students for higher education,” Ramsey said.

The 2012-2013 year marks the first time in the history of U of L that private support is now greater, at $141.8 million, than state support, at $141.1 million. In addition, the budget from the current fiscal year saw the biggest cut the university has ever had to make at 6.4 percent, $9 million.

President Ramsey says his goal is to avoid making university-wide budget cuts and layoffs like many other Kentucky schools have and will be forced to do this year, such as the University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University.
The principles that the budget focused on this year included minimizing tuition increases, increasing student aid, funding fixed costs, providing recurring salary increases, not increasing any broad based fees such as parking and maximizing the university’s ongoing seven point strategy for success.

Employee health insurance is also expected President Ramsey acknowledged that decisions such as tuition increases are not easy to make but necessary. In addition, among other state schools, the increase this proposed budget is looking to make is less of an increase and the 3.1 percent is a mandatory minimum. Ramsey said, “We’ll make the hard decisions and do the hard things to keep progressing.”

The University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees also met to discuss several important decisions and honor several students, faculty members and teams.

Both men’s and women’s basketball teams were honored and praised for the championship and runner-up winnings. Several team members including Shelby Harper, Antonita Slaughter, Russ Smith, Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva attended the meeting. Also in attendance were women’s head coach Jeff Walz, men’s assistant coach Andre Mcgee, and athletic director Tom Jurich. “The accomplishments of the men’s and women’s teams were second to none,” Jurich said.

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Photo by Rae Hodge/The Louisville Cardinal

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