As Gov. Matt Bevin prepares to present his two-year budget to the state's legislative chambers discussions are arising over his plans regarding funding higher education.
Murray State University President Bob Davies recently spent several days meeting with state leaders in Frankfort to discuss the issue.
"There is a very interesting feeling up in Frankfort," said Davies. "Last week, I spent two and a half days talking with our legislators and leaders and also with the lieutenant governor and others. It's going to be a very interesting session to watch on many different fronts. I think a very strong, clear message is that even with increased state revenues through taxes, there are also significantly increased liabilities.
"So when we talk about investments in current programs and current state agencies, that is very unlikely. And even new ideas and new investments are even more unlikely."
Currently, universities receive a base state appropriation each year.
Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education is seeking around $86 million in new state funding to reward universities that achieve certain performance based goals.
But, Gov. Bevin told Lexington’s WUKY he wants the entire higher ed budget tied to performance goals.
Davies says that proposal will create special challenges for the Commonwealth’s state universities.
“When you set performance funding measures, you typically are setting goals to achieve that will make you stretch and move forward," said Davies. "And so, in essence, we’re setting ourselves up for a double reduction...reduction from the base funding, setting up goals that are not easily achievable and require funding...and all of a sudden we’re going to be measured against those? That doesn’t pass a solid business mindset.”
"Running a university is a very complex system by its nature," said Davies. "Legislators and others say you need to become more efficient. We don't have a magic pill where people can all of a sudden teach faster and learn faster, there's a process with this, and its a very intensive and deliberate process.
"We are a high-achieving institution. Our students, when they leave Murray State University, highly recommend our university to their family and friends. By-and-large, they are receiving positions within their industry, there are getting into graduate schools, vet schools and medical schools and going on to other degrees and becoming significant contributors. We are returning a significant investment to the Commonwealth.
"So when they talk about performance funding; I'm for goals, I'm for setting aspirations, but at the same time we've got to be honest and realistic about that."
The state council on postsecondary education reports campus operating budgets have faced $173 million in cuts in 8 years, while enrollments have increased.
In the interview, Davies also discussed common-core, new admission standards and promoting college-readiness for incoming students.