Higher education community expresses concerns with Bevin budget proposal

The presidents of the University of Kentucky and the Council on Postsecondary Education shared their concerns over budget cuts faced by higher education and a lack of details in a performance-based funding model under the Bevin budget proposal in a meeting of the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education Thursday.

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto told legislators in the committee that his university will suffer under the proposed budget cuts of 4.5 percent in the first year of the budget and 9 percent in the second and added UK is an economic engine in the state he believes “deserves more funding and not less.”

Capilouto said the $280 million investment from the state each year is the building block for the rest of the university’s $3.4 billion budget. The school president also stated that the state of Kentucky gets a return of 12 times their investment and even with the large size of UK, Capilouto said they will not be able to absorb cuts of this magnitude.

As for the performance-based funding proposal put forth in the Bevin budget, Capilouto said while he believes performance-based funding should be a part of the solution to the funding of higher education, he is “deeply concerned” about the lack of details in the current proposals and the “uncertainty” it brings.

In his budget address, Bevin said he would like to see a performance-based funding system put in place beginning in 2018 with 100 percent of the university funding being based on outcomes by 2020. In the address, Bevin did not lay out what outcomes he intended to base the funding on and the specifics are expected to be crafted after the 2016 session has concluded.

In the meeting, Rep. Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green said that he did not want to speak for the rest of the committee members but expressed his feeling that without a strong proposal, performance-based funding would be “off the table” this year.

Bob King, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), voiced similar concerns with the lack of detail in the Bevin proposal. CPE has been working on a performance-based model with the university presidents over the years and said the group wants to be at the table crafting the specifics of such a system.

King discussed the fact that CPE has been looking for some of the money that goes to the state’s higher education institutions being based on performance but not all, as the Bevin proposal suggests.

Citing the models used in other states, Capilouto also added that he did not know of any other state implementing a performance-based funding system at a time while they are also cutting the budgets of the universities.

Both Capilouto and King shared their respect for the governor and General Assembly for the difficult job they are tasked with when crafting a budget and said they look forward to working with the lawmakers in this process.

Many committee members as well as the two presidents expressed a willingness to work with Bevin on the specifics of a model that will work for Kentucky but echoed the sentiments of DeCesare about the need for a strong proposal before moving forward this session.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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