Education

State budget cuts to higher education are poised to create challenges for the University of Louisville, school president James Ramsey said Wednesday.

At the annual State of the University address, Ramsey said dwindling resources have ended a “period of privilege for higher education.”

“This new reality has shifted our conversations at UofL to how can we continue our amazing academic trajectory with less public support,” he said at Wednesday’s address.

Since 2008, UofL’s revenue from the state general fund has shrunk by more than $15 million, according to data provided by the Council on Postsecondary Education.  In the same time, tuition rates have jumped to their highest rates ever at just more than $10,000 a school year.

In a prepared speech, Ramsey told students, faculty and officials that UofL has been “very successful in navigating this new reality.”

Just last year, Ramsey said, with the fewest amount of state appropriated dollars in more than 14 years, UofL increased its six-year graduation rate (up to 53 percent from the 2008 rate of 48 percent). The school graduated a record number of students, increased the number of Ph.D. degrees awarded and transitioned its athletics into the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“It was another special year in the life of our University,” he said.

But he added “it is just a matter of time until we, like the marathon runner, hit the wall and are unable to do more with less.”

He said change is needed “if we are to move forward.”

He said pilot programs and collaborative, community partnerships will provide additional funding opportunities.  He added that university financial models must be developed with communications and transparency in mind.

In August, Ramsey joined University of Kentucky president Eli Capilouto  in voicing concerns about new formulas being developed by the Council on Post Secondary Education. The potential formulas aim to rework the way state funds are allocated to higher education institutions.

This “serves to illicit distrust among campus leaders and further hinders efforts to measure and encourage progress,” Ramsey and Capilouto wrote in an August 25 letter to Council on Postsecondary Education president Robert King.

Ramsey compared the ongoing state budget cuts to a portion of training Navy SEALs must endure known as “Hell Week.”

“Just as the Navy SEALs who are weakened by lack of sleep and non stop training,” he said.  “We are weakened by budget cuts and those who put self interest ahead of public good.”

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.