Official: Kentucky State University needs funds to stay open

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s only public historically Black university will need emergency funding to stay open through the end of the year, Kentucky State University’s vice president for finance told lawmakers Friday at a budget hearing.

“We are confident we’re going to be able to make it to January. We believe we can make it through April,” Gregory Rush said.

Kentucky State University announced in August that it owes about $13 million, which includes $3 million in vendor invoices and about $5 million to clear construction invoices.

The report came after several KSU officials resigned, including a board member and chief financial officer. The university’s former president, M. Christopher Brown, left the job in July amid concerns about the school’s finances and lawsuits alleging misconduct by campus officials.

However, in April, KSU reported it received positive results from its annual independent financial audit, with a budget surplus of $2.3 million for fiscal year 2020.

After the turmoil, Gov. Andy Beshear quickly ordered a review into university finances by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.

The council’s president, Aaron Thompson, said the council is compiling an improvement plan and appropriation recommendations for the next biennial budget. Both are required by the governor’s executive order for the university to be considered for additional funding.

Persistent student debt owed to the university is also contributing to the school’s financial woes, Rush said.

“I’ll be perfectly honest, I think part of the issue over the past three years, or four years is that we have not had a full student body that has satisfied their balances,” he said. “Part of the reason our enrollment declined just a bit this year is we began enforcing that this fall.”

KSU has announced that it will dedicate some federal coronavirus relief funds to clear tuition and fee balances owed to the institution from March 13, 2020, to July 30, 2021.

“What we’re doing in great detail now, is making sure that the campus is organizationally stable, that finances get back to square one,” Thompson said.

State Senate budget chairman Chris McDaniel expressed concern over whether to continue the school, given the university’s lower enrollment and graduation rates. In 2017, McDaniel said, KSU conferred 401 degrees for an average cost to the state of $66,000 per degree. In 2019, the school produced 205 degrees, breaking down to $123,000 per degree, he added.

“So the financial case to be made is that there should not be a Kentucky State,” he said. “That we should give these kids full tuition, send them to University of Kentucky, send them to University of Louisville, but there are larger cultural implications at play as well.”

Kentucky’s General Assembly will consider the state budget in the upcoming regular legislative session, which begins in January.

 

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