Saying Kentucky State University must continue to look for ways to cut costs and stem a $1.5 million deficit in this year’s budget, Interim President Raymond Burse announced on Wednesday that 645 students whose accounts were in arrears have been asked to go home.
Had the students stayed, according to a press release, the deficit would have approached a historic $7 million.
According to the release, across the past 14 months the students had been notified 22 times their accounts were in arrears. Also, during a 14-month period since August 2013 they had been counseled and requested to make payments or arrangements before a Sept. 2 deadline.
The passing of that deadline resulted in the en masse drop despite students receiving financial aid disbursements 10 days before the beginning of the semester on Aug. 16.
“Our registration system has some broken processes,” Burse said. “I will take responsibility for that. I assumed in July and August that a student had to be fully registered meaning (that) they paid their full obligations like most universities before they could start attending classes. That has not been true here. I was upset when I found out that was not the case.”
Burse said the university also uses registration software called Banner, which allows students to check an option box in their individual accounts withholding funds for financial obligations before receiving refund checks and the box was inactive.
But federal guidelines for financial aid would only allow the university to withdraw money from a student’s financial aid disbursement for the current semester despite any past debt owed with a student’s consent.
Some students, according to the release, had accrued $40,000 of debt over a two-year period.
“We have broken processes that occasionally jumps up and bites us and embarrasses us,” Burse said. “Those 645 students were pre-registered and some were living in the dorms. If we had allowed them to stay enrolled it would have cost the university about $7 million.”
What Burse described as “a historic deficit” would have been largely because of the 645 students who had not paid KSU this fall.
“This is terribly unfortunate,” the president said, “and we must take the necessary steps to protect KSU’s financial stability.”
Burse ordered university foundations to pay student balances under $1,000 in August, which accounted for about 111 students and $97,000 of debt, and 42 KSU first-time students and those on track to graduate received an additional $65,000 in book vouchers and scholarships.
“We have done everything we can to help students who need it the most,” Burse said. “The last thing we want to ever do is remove a student from enrollment, but the university cannot endure the entire burden. I am dedicated to working hard to take KSU to the next level as an institution, but to do so everyone must do their part and be held accountable.”
With the $1.5 million deficit remaining in the fiscal year budget even with the students gone, Burse added the university would continue to look at ways to cut costs.
“We are working on different strategies. We will look at if we are top heavy in the administration, look at our programs and if they are producing graduates,” Burse said.
“We will look at recruitment measures and if we can entice state employees to attend classes here for a discount. We have a list of potential ideas we are working on.”