Murray State President Talks Effects Of Tuesday’s Election On Public Universities
As power shifts in Frankfort after this month’s elections, the question rises, “what does this mean for a public university?” In an interview with WKMS’ Chad Lampe, Murray State University President Bob Jackson said he is looking forward to working with the new governor in regard to funding and making a case for public education.
Since 2007-08, public institutions have been cut 21% in state general fund appropriations and have experienced mandated pension increases, according to the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.
“We've worked all fall and we've worked with Governor Bevin’s administration in regard to the funding request and the CPE board and all the university presidents and other university administrators. So really, what we've narrowed it to is a request of about $125 million dollars over the biennium,” Jackson said.
The CPE reportedthe total operating funds request is a 6.2% increase in the first year and an 8.8% increase in the second year. It also includes base adjustments for debt service and a Kentucky State University land grant match.
Jackson said the funding will be disbursed through the performance funding model.
University funding through the performance funding model considers a university’s graduation, retention, and underrepresented minority rates among other metrics. According to the CPE, the performance funding model focuses the state's community colleges and universities on raising Kentucky's educational attainment level to 60% by 2030.
In 2019, Murray State saw an increase in student retention and progression towards graduation. This means 79.3% of students who began in fall 2018 returned for the fall 2019 semester. According to Murray State’s online publication “Blue & Gold”, Murray is expected to have the highest retention rate among regional public institutions in the state of Kentucky.
Jackson said there is currently a 1% “stop loss” for 2019, meaning no more than 1% of Murray State’s funding can be lost in this year. However, according to the performance funding model, next year’s “stop loss” is 2%. And after 2020, the entire appropriation could be at risk. But, Jackson said he is pleased with the funding request proposal.
Jackson said the CPE and the legislature have been asked to consider a floor to the stop loss. This would mean in any given year, no public university can lose more than 2% of their appropriation.
In addition to the funding requests, Murray State has asked the state for help matching funds for deferred maintenance.
Murray State has put in place an asset preservation fee. With the fee, Jackson predicts Murray State may be able to raise as much as $22 million dollars from a state matching pool. Jackson said these funds for deferred maintenance could go a long way. He said many legislative leaders he has talked to see public universities as state assets, and understand the need for funded maintenance.
Another aspect of the funding model for higher education is tuition. Jackson said he is “very, pleased with the work that's been done over the last year and a half in regard to enhancing enrollment at Murray State University.”
Jackson reported first-time freshmen enrollment was up 7.7%. He said he thinks Murray will be one of two public institutions in Kentucky to show an increase.
Murray State is focusing on an online graduate program pilot to increase digital enrollment. Jackson said, “One of the programs as an example is our new master's degree which was just approved in cyber security. I think this will have not only local, regional and national appeal, but international appeal. And so we're excited about.”
Jackson said it’s a little bit too early to project enrollment for next year, but the numbers are being monitored very closely. Jackson said the preliminary metrics are very positive, and are up over last year’s numbers.