University Presidents Warn Against 12 Percent Funding Cut

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Possible funding cuts of up to 12 percent
next year would stall Kentucky's higher education reform efforts and cause a systemwide regression, the state's public university presidents told Gov. Steve Beshear in a letter Friday.

Each of the state's eight public university presidents and others signed a letter to Beshear saying such cuts would harm higher education in Kentucky. Such cuts, if carried out on top of a 3 percent budget cut this year, would set higher education back years and result in fewer Kentuckians attending college and increased dropout rates, the letter said.

"Our state's best economic engine will slip back down the hill just as it was approaching the steeper slopes near the peak, sliding off the track and causing immeasurable damage," the letter said.

With state government facing gloomy financial forecasts, Beshear had asked universities to outline worst-case consequences of 12 percent budget cuts next year on public universities. State government is facing a budget shortfall of $434 million this year and more than $500 million next year, Beshear said.

Already, Beshear has slashed $78 million from the current budget, which runs through June 30, ordering 3 percent cuts to state agencies and public universities. He also authorized about $145 million left over from the previous fiscal year and about $42 million in unbudgeted or excess funds found throughout state government to help cover the gap.

Universities' budgets were cut about $34.5 million overall by the move. Elementary and secondary education, meanwhile, were spared from the budget ax for this year, but Beshear has not ruled out any cuts next year.

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