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doing environmental scans—to see what kinds of jobs are
being created. For example, there’s a resurgence of coal in
Kentucky…But we’ve lost a generation of miners, and the
equipment is 20 years old.” So KCTCS is working with
industry to prepare simulators to help
train new high-tech miners.
“Creating this centralized community
and technical college management is one
of two changes that may have the most
long-term effects,” said consultant Aims
McGuinness. The other is the effort to
improve adult education and literacy
under legislation passed in 2000. “If adult
education gets forgotten, that’s going to
cause severe problems.”
The legislature gave the Council on
Postsecondary Education responsibility
for policy, planning and budgets for adult
education, and the state increased annual
funding for its programs from about
$10 million to $22 million between 2000
and 2005. The council has set goals and
accountability for those who provide the programs, including
local boards of education, community and technical colleges,
and community-based organizations.
Across the state 4,397 people were enrolled in family
literacy programs in 2004, compared to 1,357 in 2001.
“People come to learn to read, often because they want to
help their children with their homework,” said Cheryl King,
the council’s vice president for adult education. “Or they’re
embarrassed (because) they want to read the newspaper and
they can’t. They desperately need a job that requires some
level of literacy.” Workforce education programs also enrolled
A 12 percent cut “would have a devastating impact on the
university,” Lee Todd, president of the flagship University of Kentucky,
told the campus community.
The legislature agreed and reduced the cuts to three percent. Still,
this meant the public campuses had received two cuts of three percent
in succession. This amounted to a $20 million loss for the University of
Kentucky, which responded by laying off some faculty and staff, by not
filling empty positions, and by postponing some projects.
The campus presidents said the proposed cuts would make it
difficult to pursue the higher education reform program and asked
permission to raise tuition and fees substantially. The Kentucky
Council on Postsecondary Education, which must approve tuition
hikes, agreed to some of the increases but reduced others.
Mike McCall, president of the rapidly growing Kentucky
Community and Technical
College System, asked
for a 13 percent tuition
and fee increase, but the
postsecondary council
allowed only a 5.2 percent
increase. The council’s action
“will have a long-lasting
impact on the future of higher
education in Kentucky,”
McCall warned.
The state’s “Bucks for
Brains” trust fund survived
the budget trimming, enabling
the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville to increase
their research capabilities by hiring top scholars, establishing more
endowed professorships and expanding lab space. However, “Bucks
for Brains” faces an uncertain future because of the state’s financial
The budget cuts have chilled the University of Kentucky’s hopes
to become one of the nation’s top 20 research universities by the
year 2020. But skeptics already had questioned whether this was a
realistic goal, noting that the National Science Foundation ranked the
university 65th in federal research and development expenditures in
The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education has achieved
a degree of cooperation among public campuses that were known for
squabbling among themselves. “We’re working together much better
now,” said Gary Ransdell, president of Western Kentucky University.
All of us (campus presidents) have come to an understanding that we’re
responsible for higher education in the entire state, not just in our own
regions.” However, the council’s reputation was damaged in 2007-08 by
two poorly conducted searches for a new chief executive.
Budget cuts and the postsecondary council’s floundering have
caused some to wonder if the postsecondary reformmovement is dead.
Kentucky “has lost its way,” said James Votruba, president of Northern
Kentucky University, whose request for a 9.6 percent tuition increase
was trimmed to 8.5 percent by the postsecondary council. Others
believe the setbacks are temporary and that progress will resume if and
when the financial situation improves.
—William Trombley
Thomas Layzell, president of the Kentucky Council on
Postsecondary Education, has brokered state budget cuts of
recent years.
Elaine Shay for CrossTalk
The Research
Challenge Trust Fund,
inelegantly known as
“Bucks for Brains,”
poured $350 million
into higher education
over the first six
years after the
reforms passed.
Kentucky’s “Bucks
for Brains” trust fund
survived the budget
trimming, but it faces
an uncertain future
because of the state’s
financial problems.