UofL President James Ramsey spoke Monday at a campus forum.
UofL President James Ramsey spoke Monday at a campus forum.

“This 9 percent cut is serious.”

UofL President James Ramsey spoke Monday at a campus forum.

With those words, UofL President James Ramsey opened a campus forum Monday on Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget cuts to higher education and other issues facing the university this semester.

More than 200 faculty, staff and students, as well as several media outlets, filled the Floyd Theater to hear Dr. Ramsey’s thoughts on the budget and how it will affect UofL.

Dr. Ramsey stressed that Bevin is faced with several challenges, most notably trying to bridge the growing gap in funding for the state’s employee and teacher pension funds.  Dr. Ramsey gave the governor credit for trying to fix the problem.

But higher education funding could be hit hard as the governor looks for funds to fix the pension problem. Dr. Ramsey said the governor’s proposal includes a $6.3 million, non-recurring cut in the university’s state appropriation this fiscal year followed by a 9 percent, recurring cut by June 30, 2018. The university already has suffered 14 budget cuts in 15 years, he noted.

Bevin also has proposed that in 2018, Kentucky’s universities should be subject to a performance funding model that will stress achieving specific goals. By 2020, the entire state appropriation could be based on achieving those key metrics, Dr. Ramsey said.

Bevin’s proposal is not final and could be altered by the end of the legislative session in early April.  Dr. Ramsey stressed that universities, including UofL, will argue their case before the legislature in February.

Dr. Ramsey gave no specifics on how UofL will address any cuts. He did say that the university will start, as it has through the previous cuts, “with our budget values and our budget principles.”

For example, through conversations with the Faculty and Staff senates, the university has “valued job retention over salary increases,” he said. That decision has led to fewer raises but helped avoid large-scale lay-offs over the past decade.

He also stressed that the university will continue to look at ways to grow revenue. Possibilities include growing enrollment, raising tuition, continuing to develop property such as Shelbyhurst to bring in outside revenue, and finding more partnerships with private industry.

When asked for specifics about enrollment growth, Dr. Ramsey deferred to interim Provost Neville Pinto.

“We have to be very strategic about where there is capacity,” Dr. Pinto said. “Also, where is the demand?”

Pinto formed a strategic enrollment management committee earlier this year to explore the possibilities, he said. While he said the university needs to look at all options, including cutting some classes or programs, “ultimately, we’re educating students…we must be very cautious about (how we respond to) immediate pressures.”

After taking several audience questions, Dr. Ramsey stressed several positive developments at the university. For instance, UofL will see a number of new construction projects in the coming months, including:

  • A new pediatric medical office building
  • Two new residence halls, in addition to those already under construction
  • Development of the Institute for Product Realization south of Belknap Campus
  • A third office building at the Shelbyhurst Campus
  • Renovation of the Swain Student Activities Center

An audience member asked Dr. Ramsey what he would tell current and future students to expect in the coming years.

“The university has focused and continues to focus on students. They can expect a world-class education,” he said. “I believe very much in the University of Louisville.”

John Drees is a 35-year veteran in the Office of Communications and Marketing. As vice president, communications and marketing, he works closely with the president, provost and other senior administrators, oversees the Office of Communications and Marketing, including media relations, marketing and brand, broadcast, social media, internal communication, crisis communication, visitor services and special events and activities. A former sports editor for the Voice Newspapers, he was a regular contributor to a variety of publications, including the Kentucky Sports Report and the Courier-Journal. A poor but enthusiastic golfer, he is an avid Cardinal sports fan. He also loves the Detroit Lions, so pity him.