A battle may be brewing over the future of Kentucky higher education — should the state add another state university, this one serving Appalachia?
The leader of the Kentucky House thinks so — and he said he won’t support any extra funding for higher education until the University of Pikeville joins the state university system.
“You know if they want my support in helping do whatever to get some more money into higher education then somebody better be figuring out what to do with that situation up there,” Kentuck House Speaker Greg Stumbo said in a recent interview with Kentucky Public Radio.
Stumbo, whose district covers parts of Eastern Kentucky, said he will continue pushing legislation until UPike becomes Kentucky’s ninth state university.
Many state universities — especially those closest to UPIKE, such as Morehead State University — fought the idea earlier this year when it was proposed by former Gov. Paul Patton, then UPike’s president, and pushed by Stumbo. Those universities were concerned about the affect the admission of UPike would have on state funding for higher education.
Now, Stumbo said he’s drawing the line on the UPike issue.
“I’ve said publicly and I’ll continue to say, I’m not going to support any more money for higher education until we address that problem. I can’t go home and look my constituents and look my neighbors in the face and say to them I did something to help these other universities when our kids aren’t getting the same educational opportunity,” he said.
A pokeswoman for the Council on Postsecondary Education says only that they plan to work with the speaker in the future on higher education.
“We look forward to working with Speaker Stumbo and other members of the legislature to ensure that all Kentuckians have equal opportunities to attend college and succeed,” said Sue Patrick, a spokeswoman for the council.
So far, no bills have been filed on the UPike issue.
UPDATE: In a statement today, Speaker Stumbo tells Kentucky Public Radio that his comments should be viewed as only his.
“I want to be clear that I don’t speak for everyone. My comments were centered on my role as a legislator who sees a disparity in the way students I represent are treated when it comes to higher education. Because of that, I personally cannot in good conscience support more funding until I think this issue is resolved,” Stumbo says.