A steadfast commitment to academic quality and student success amid declining state appropriations, political uncertainties, rising fixed costs, maintenance needs on some older facilities, and a slight decline in expected enrollment (tuition revenue) factored in the development of Eastern Kentucky University’s 2018-19 budget.
In its regular meeting on Monday, June 25, the University’s Board of Regents approved a total 2018-19 budget of $353,813,686, down from approximately $358 million the previous fiscal year.
Eastern currently derives 26 percent of its operating revenue from state appropriations, with the remainder coming from tuition and fees. Just 15 years ago, the ratio was approximately the reverse. Last fall, stating the desire to keep the “Eastern Experience” within financial reach of its students and families, EKU became the first public university in the Commonwealth to freeze tuition rates for the 2018-19 academic year. (Only one other state university followed suit.)
In April, acting on a recommendation from the University’s Budget Advisory Committee, the EKU Regents approved $25 million in internal budget cuts that encompassed the elimination of a vice president position and other administrative roles, the move of Athletics to 2013-14 funding levels, closure of the Danville regional campus, a reduction in workforce, and the suspension of several academic programs.
In his presentation to the Board on June 25, Ryan Green, executive director of budgeting and financial planning, noted several key investments in the 2018-19 budget, including:
· $1.5 million for the SMART enrollment plan geared to attract more out-of-state students. Eastern and its sister institutions are facing a declining number of in-state high school students from which to draw.
· $1.8 million to fund new E-Campus investments and support online enrollment growth.
· $250,000 to establish a Board-sponsored faculty and staff innovation pool to provide matching and seed funds for initiatives that advance the instructional mission of the University or create significant cost savings.
· savings from a one-year reprieve from a Kentucky Employee Retirement System increase that will be transferred to the long-term University reserve. The University has set as a long-term goal a reserve fund of 10 percent of its education and general budget within 3-5 years.
· $3 million of additional funding for physical asset preservation, derived from as asset preservation fee approved by the board June 25. The $10-per-credit-hour fee (capped at 15 credit hours per semester will generate financial resources to be placed in a restricted account for the maintenance and renovation of campus facilities for instructional and administrative purposes. (Eastern froze its 2018-19 tuition at the previous year’s level.) Barry Poynter, EKU vice president for finance and administration, noted that the Commonwealth has not provided funds for building maintenance and improvements for approximately 15 years.
Looking ahead, Poynter said the University will continue looking for ways to improve efficiency, particularly in its procurement practices and technology, among other areas.
A 21-member budget implementation team, comprising a cross-section of the campus community, will oversee the budget reduction strategies approved by the Board of Regents in April.
Meanwhile, the University continues with a comprehensive campus revitalization initiative designed to transform the living and learning experience for students. Most of the large, recently completed or under-construction projects are financed by either a public-private partnership or through a special student fee approved by the Student Senate in 2015.