Higher Education

WKU

Kentucky’s public and private colleges and universities awarded a record number of degrees during the 2015-16 academic year.

A report from the Council on Postsecondary Education says Kentucky’s higher education institutions conferred 65,829 degrees--a 2.7 percent increase over the previous year.

The number represents a 32.5 percent increase over the amount of degrees awarded over ten years in the commonwealth.

Murray State and Morehead State had the highest increase in bachelor degree production, with the schools awarding 12 percent more degrees in the 2015-16 academic year. The University of Kentucky conferred 4 percent more.

Western Kentucky University saw a four percent increase in that same time.

Over the past decade, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System saw a 49 percent increase in the number of associate degrees it awarded.

Thinkstock

A court has ordered the release of $18 million back to Kentucky’s state colleges and universities after the state Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Matt Bevin’s mid-year cuts to higher education were illegal.

The $18 million, which will be released by Thursday, has been held in an escrow account since Attorney General Andy Beshear challenged Bevin’s executive order cutting higher education funding by 2 percent.

Though the state Supreme Court ruled last month that Bevin didn’t have the authority to cut funding that had already been budgeted by the legislature, the $18 million was in limbo while the court waited to see if Bevin would request for a the case to be heard again.

Bevin announced he would not seek another hearing of the case last week, and on Friday, the governor and attorney general agreed to release the funds back to state colleges and universities.

Bevin ordered the 2 percent mid-year cuts after negotiations for the two-year budget this spring to free up money for the state’s ailing pension systems. Higher education was cut by 4.5 percent in the two-year budget and most other state agencies and programs were cut by 9 percent.

J. Tyler Frankin

Gov. Matt Bevin has not asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling against his mid-year cuts to higher education institutions. That means about $18 million in state funds that Bevin had cut are a step closer to being released to Kentucky’s state colleges and universities.

Last month, the state’s highest court ruled that Bevin didn’t have the authority to reduce the allotment that the state had already budgeted to give to higher education institutions.

Amanda Stamper, Bevin’s press secretary, said that Bevin still believes the court “erred in its decision” in the lawsuit, which was brought on Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear.

“This was a bad decision for Kentucky and the ramifications from Attorney General’s political lawsuit could be significant,” Stamper said. “Moody’s called the decision a ‘credit negative’ for Kentucky because it limits Governor Bevin’s ability to manage difficult budget scenarios in light of Kentucky’s $35 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.”

J. Tyler Frankin

The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that Gov. Matt Bevin does not have the authority to make mid-year cuts to state university budgets if the state isn’t experiencing a shortfall.

In a 5-2 ruling, the state’s high court declared that Bevin exceeded his authority by issuing an executive order cutting last fiscal year’s fourth quarter higher education allotment by $18 million.

“Whatever authority he might otherwise have to require a budget unit not to spend appropriated funds does not extend to the Universities, which the legislature has made independent bodies politic with control over their own expenditures,” the majority opinion stated.

The court reversed an earlier opinion by Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate, which said that Bevin had authority to unilaterally cut the budgets of state colleges and universities because they are part of the state’s executive branch, which Bevin is the head of.

The opinion stated that Bevin does have the authority to make mid-year budget cuts if the state experiences a budget shortfall of 5 percent or more, however the commonwealth experienced a surplus last fiscal year.

Youtube

The president of the University of Kentucky says he’s confident higher education leaders will be able to finalize a performance-based funding model.

The state’s publicly supported colleges and universities are working on a plan to base a percentage of each school’s funding on certain metrics. The plan was ordered by Governor Matt Bevin.

UK President Eli Capilouto says degree productivity is a measure he thinks will play a big role in determining performance-based funding.

“I personally believe that the degree is the most important outcome, and funding should follow our success in awarding a degree,” Capilouto told WKU Public Radio during an interview Thursday.

ky.gov

Kentucky's Republican governor and Democratic attorney general are preparing to take their dispute over state funding for public colleges and universities to the state's highest court.

The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Thursday in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Steve Beshear over Gov. Matt Bevin's decision to reduce the allotments of the state's public colleges and universities.

Beshear says the state legislature controls state spending, and Bevin's order reducing the institutions' allotments by $17.8 million was illegal because lawmakers didn't approve it.

Bevin argues lawmakers give money to state agencies and the governor, as the state's chief executive, can order some of those agencies not to spend all of it. A state judge ruled in Bevin's favor in May.

Kevin Willis

Western Kentucky University’s latest fundraising totals are the highest in school history.

The school announced today that it raised $23.1 million in donations during the fiscal year that ended June 30.

That’s a 22 percent increase over the school’s previous record.

Marc Archambault, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations at WKU, says he was impressed by the number of donations made by people who aren’t WKU graduates.

“Forty-five percent of the dollars that were contributed in this last fiscal year came from ‘friends’—people unaffiliated with the university,” he said.

The contributions made to WKU last fiscal year include nearly $10 million for the school’s endowment, and nearly $8 million for student scholarships.

Rick Howlett

A central Kentucky college officially closes on Monday, after 85 years of operation.

Officials at St. Catharine College near Springfield announced in June that the school would shut down, citing declining enrollment and a dispute with the U.S. Department of Education over a cut in financial aid.

The move left several hundred students scrambling to find a new school.  Many have transferred to similar-sized institutions such as Bellarmine, Midway and Kentucky State University.

More than 100 faculty and staff members were laid off.

St. Catharine President Cindy Gnadinger said it’s been a trying time for everyone.

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

Members of the Western Kentucky University presidential search committee are laying out a timeline of next steps in the hiring process.

The executive search firm helping identify candidates will meet later this summer with WKU faculty, staff, and student groups.

Search committee members have been looking through the first draft of a profile containing input from those on and around the school’s campus.

Search committee chairman Dr. Phillip Bale says a big part of that draft is a list of the characteristics those groups want to see in the school’s next leader.

“I don’t there’s a person that exists in the world who has all them, so part of our charge, as it were, will be to figure out what is most important.”

WKU

The Western Kentucky University Board of Regents has approved a $402 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Fifty-one-percent of the budget is funded by student tuition and fees. The new spending plan includes a 4.5 percent tuition increase, and factors in a 4.5 percent reduction in state funding.

Student regent Jay Todd Richey cast the lone vote against the budget. In a prepared statement read before the vote, the Glasgow native said he couldn’t support certain parts of the plan, including a reduction in funding for the Track and Field program.

Speaking to reporters after the budget was passed 8-1, Rickey said many WKU students believe the burden of decreased state funding for higher education isn’t being shouldered evenly.

WKU

A legal scholar at Western Kentucky University says Thursday's Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action is good for the country’s college classrooms.  

The high court upheld the affirmative action program at the University of Texas.

WKU History Professor Patricia Minter says having a diverse student body creates a better learning environment for everyone.

“As much as we empathize with the struggles of others, we sometimes need to let groups and people speak for themselves about their own lived experience.”

Opponents of affirmative action programs have argued that factors like race, ethnicity, and gender shouldn’t factor into university admissions policies.

Minter says Thursday’s high court ruling isn’t necessarily the last Supreme Court decision regarding affirmative action. She says the country’s racial and ethnic makeup is rapidly changing, and those factors could lead to future court challenges.

You can hear Minter’s conversation with WKU Public Radio by clicking on the “Listen” button above.

Alix Mattingly

The Kentucky community college system reassigned its top attorney earlier this month to a newly created “special assistant” position soon after wrapping up a monthslong investigation of his office behavior.

J. Campbell Cantrill III will serve as “special assistant to the president for policy review and revision” until he retires next summer, according to a settlement reached with the Kentucky Community & Technical College System on June 1. He will continue to draw the $137,314 annual salary he received as general counsel.

Cantrill, who served as KCTCS’ legal chief since 2008, had been placed on administrative leave with pay and barred from the system’s headquarters in Versailles and its email system on Feb. 26. In a letter sent to him that day by KCTCS President Jay Box, Cantrill was told he was being investigated for possible violations of system policies, including those that cover harassment, ethical values and use of information technology.

The letter cited “multiple reports” of violations by Cantrill but did not provide any details. KCTCS hired an outside attorney, Keith Moorman of Frost Brown Todd in Lexington, to investigate the matter.

WKU

A majority of students from India recently recruited by Western Kentucky University for its graduate program in computer science have not met their academic requirements.

WKU spokesman Bob Skipper says 59 students from India were recruited in a pilot project for the 2016 spring semester. At the end of the semester, 41 of those students did not meet the requirements of their admission. 

Eight of the students came close to meeting the requirements and are appealing. They are expected to be reinstated. The remainder have been dismissed from the university. Nineteen have transferred to other colleges.

James Gary, chairman of the computer science department at Western Kentucky University, says the first semester can be challenging for the graduate students from India.

“The most common difficulty is they do not seem to have the level of programming expertise that we would expect from a student with an undergraduate degree in computer science,” says Gary.

Alix Mattingly

The president of Kentucky’s community college system makes $375,000 annually, a paycheck that’s right on the money when compared with similar institutions, at least according to a school-funded consultant’s report.

Consultant Lyle Hanna briefed a few members of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System board of regents last week on his comprehensive review of President Jay Box’s pay. Hanna’s review, funded by KCTCS, found Box’s compensation is very close to the average of his peers:

“Amazingly,” Hanna said, “right on the target.”

In hitting that target, though, Hanna relied on flawed information, including a cherry-picked group of peers and data that doesn’t exist yet.

St. Catharine College To Close At End Of July

Jun 1, 2016
St. Catherine College

Officials from St. Catharine College announced Wednesday that the school will shutter its doors next month.

According to a news release, following recent meetings of the board of trustees, chairman John Turner told faculty and staff of the planned closure at a campus-wide meeting on Wednesday.

“It is with great sadness that I announce today, after exploring all possible options, the board of trustees has determined the challenges facing St. Catharine College are insurmountable and we will be closing the college at the end of July,” Turner said.

Turner said a decline in overall enrollment and the federal Department of Education’s admitted wrongful withholding of student aid has proven to be too difficult to manage along with the college’s debts.

The school says the debt Turner referenced was due to the construction of new facilities, including residence halls, a health sciences building and a library.

Pages