The governing body of Western Kentucky University made a $388 million decision today.
The Board of Regents approved a budget that will increase tuition and fees by four percent. The increase will fund four percent raises for faculty and staff, the first substantial salary increase in a decade. Student Regent Stephen Mayer cast the lone dissenting vote on the budget, citing the financial hardship that a tuition hike would place on his peers. Tuition and fees make up 70 percent WKU’s budget, while state funding accounts for only 19 percent of the spending plan. Regent John Ridley expressed frustration that the General Assembly didn’t fund any capital projects and saddled universities with rising pension costs.
"I don't see how anyone can budget a business and not know what's on the horizon or cannot plan. Now we have a mystery as to whether we're going to have a few million dollars in pension liabilities or several millions of dollars. We have all a responsibility to contact our legislators and say 'you need to wrap this up," he says.
Lawmakers hastily passed a pension reform bill during this year’s legislative session that would have resulted in seven-and-a-half million dollars in additional pension costs for the university in the new budget. The bill, however, gave universities a one-year reprieve on the payments. That pension bill was ruled unconstitutional yesterday by a Franklin County Circuit Court judge, a decision that creates even more uncertainty for Kentucky’s public colleges and