Kentucky State University officials say they’ve overcome the biggest deficit in years and balanced the budget by imposing a hiring freeze, raising tuition and dipping into reserves, among other measures.
The KSU Board of Regents unanimously approved the $61.8 million budget for the upcoming school year during a special meeting Monday, called to deal with the imbalance.
President Mary Sias told the board in April that the $8.1 million shortfall was the biggest she’s seen since coming to Frankfort eight years ago, in part due to a $1.6 million cut in state revenue.
The university also has a new business program and an expanding agriculture operation that need more staff, and fixed costs like utilities and fuel are going up, Sias said.
The overall budget is $3.2 million more than the current fiscal year, much of that coming from higher tuition costs and an expected jump in enrollment.
Employees won’t receive raises, and hiring will freeze except for essential positions, Sias said.
The plan could also rely on using up to $2.5 million from reserves and rollover funds to balance the budget. KSU used a similar approach to balance the current year’s budget, spending $2.6 million in reserves leftover from the previous fiscal year.
Sias said officials would continue to look for cost-saving measures and additional revenue throughout the year, in hopes of cutting that amount at least in half. The university’s reserves sit at about $11 million, with $7 million of that in cash, she said.
“It will mean that we’re kind of on an austere budget, and what we want to do is to be in the position next year where we can give salary increases, that we can have a retirement plan in place for faculty, all of those kinds of things,” she said.
“Even though we have a budget that’s balanced, we’re going to work more intensely to get it down in areas where we can save money.”
Officials are banking on collecting 100 percent of tuition – compared to more conservative estimates of 85 or 90 percent in the past.
Sias said “it’s going to be tight” to collect that much tuition, but KSU has done it before; the university ramped up efforts last year and collected 102 percent of money owed.
The university will also push to increase freshman enrollment and promote transfers to KSU to generate more income.
The Board of Regents voted in April to raise tuition by 5 percent – the maximum allowed by the state. The move, along with a projected enrollment increase of 160 students, could generate $3.7 million more revenue for the university.
In-state KSU students will pay $254 per credit hour for up to 12 hours – usually equal to four classes. Each credit hour beyond that costs $127, a 50 percent discount. A student taking 15 hours pays $3,429 per semester, and 12 hours costs $3,048.
Out-of-state undergraduates will see their hourly rates increase from $581 to $610.
Students will pay more for on-campus housing – up $50 per semester for single and double rooms, and $20 more for suite-style and triple occupancy dorms. Housing costs will range from $1,600 for a triple room to $2,170 for a single.
Student health insurance is also going up by 90 percent to $1,005 per student. Two years ago, the cost was $302.
Employee health insurance deductibles will double, in some cases, to keep premiums down.
“We had active participation from our diverse stakeholder groups – faculty, students and staff – and I think we were all pleased,” Sias said of this year’s budgeting process.
“Nobody is pleased when you have a large gap to cover, but that we found a way to do it without cutting faculty, and that we could still give some need-based assistance to students.”