BIP 2016

Updates from Other Years

2017 | 2016


EKU Regents Approve Changes in Academic Programs to Better Position University for Future Success - December 5, 2016

In a strategic move designed to focus on key student success initiatives and better position the institution for future success in a rapidly changing higher education landscape, the Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents has approved several changes in academic programs

The Board, meeting in special session on Monday, Dec. 5, earmarked several academic programs for redesign to be more efficient and marketable, and other programs for suspension. In all cases, the decisions were based on enrollment and graduation numbers, among other factors, and followed almost a year of discussions and review.

The EKU Vision for 2020 Strategic Plan specifically outlines strategies to strengthen academic programs, including ongoing academic review. As outlined in the Strategic Plan, program review seeks to:

  • ensure relevance of all academic programs.
  • financially invest in and promote nationally recognized programs that attract students to EKU.
  • increase capacity in existing programs identified as having high demand.

“It is a fact that the changes to state funding (cuts in appropriations and yet-to-be-finalized performance-based metrics) brought new urgency to the need for the program review,” said Craig Turner, chair of the Board of Regents. “If we cannot recruit, retain and graduate students from our programs and offer needed support, we will not survive under the new performance-based funding.”

In his remarks, EKU President Michael Benson said the University’s “deliberative and participatory” review process focused on the “four fundamental pillars” of EKU’s Strategic Plan: academic distinction and excellence, student success and student experience, service to the region and campus revitalization.

“All of this was to be accomplished with an unrelenting commitment to sound financial management and being responsible stewards of the state’s investment in us as a public institution. We have endeavored to be transparent and communicative throughout and will continue to do so as we move forward. I thank the Board for its trust in us as a leadership team and thank my colleagues for their willingness to make hard decisions in an effort to move the University forward and to place us in a position where we can be successful now and into the future.”

Although the University will continue to offer courses in the following disciplines, the Board approved suspension of these degree programs:

  • B.A. and minor in Comparative Humanities
  • B.A. in English/Theatre Concentration (The theatre minor will be retained, and two theatre certificates established. EKU Theatre public performances will continue, though maybe fewer in number.)
  • B.A. in English, Theatre Teaching
  • B.A. and minor in French
  • B.A. in French Teaching
  • MBA Concentration in Accounting
  • MBA Concentration in Integrated Communication
  • Associate of Applied Science, Science for Engineering

The approximately 160 students now enrolled in those degree programs will be able to complete their degrees.

“Our curriculum is dynamic, based on student demand and market demand,” said Provost Dr. Janna Vice. “It is not uncommon for the University to suspend programs, as a result of continual review. We want to be able to continue investing in successful programs for which we know there is a demand.”

The Board also approved a redesign of the following programs in order to help them become more marketable:

  • B.S. and minor in Horticulture (degree to become a Concentration in Agriculture)
  • B.A. and minor in Journalism (degree to become a Concentration in Broadcast and Electronic Media).  The Eastern Progress, a student-produced weekly campus newspaper, will continue to be published.
  • B.A. and minor in Geography (degree to be converted to a degree in Geographic Information Systems)

The Regents said the following programs would be retained, but with a cost reduction by Spring 2017:

  • Minor in Religion
  • Minor in Social Intelligence and Leadership StudiesB.A., Technical Writing Concentration in English

Also, a minor in Applied Ethics will be retained and re-evaluated in 2018. In all, the changes will result in a savings of approximately $615,000, but will not result in the loss of any tenured faculty.  When possible, faculty from suspended programs will be reassigned.

Dr. Tom Oteino, interim dean of the College of Science, said he was “struck by the willingness of all the players at the department, college and university levels to work collaboratively. We talked candidly and shared ideas and information, we were patient with one another, we considered each other’s perspective thoughtfully, and we worked hard together. Consequently, we were able to arrive at creative solutions to very challenging issues. For example, rather than close the Geography program, the department has the opportunity to redesign the program and offer a degree in Geographic Information Systems instead, an area with demonstrable demand.”

The University is facing a $11.1 million budget shortfall for 2017-18, which includes a 4.5 percent ($3.1 million) cut in state appropriations, as well as a $2.7 million increase in contributions to the Kentucky Employees Retirement System, an increase of $1 million due to changes in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, $2.8 million increase in scholarships, and a $1.5 million increase in fixed and unavoidable costs. The Board also approved a $2 million reserve for strategic investment in response to performance-based funding measures, bringing the total to $13.1 million.

Already, the administration has taken actions touching every area of the University to reduce the total recurring budget impact to approximately $9 million. An Enhanced Retirement Transition Program (ERTP), announced earlier this fall, will continue through the Spring 2017 semester. The ERTP, along with other retirements and attrition, is expected to generate savings of $2.4 million. Additionally, the Board approved an operational savings goal of $1.5 million and an increased revenue goal of $2.6 million. In total, actions approved today reduced the total remaining budget impact to $2 million.

“We have to be good stewards of the investments in EKU,” Turner said. “Whether it is state funding, tuition dollars or a donor’s gift, all deserve a return on their investment.”

Eastern continues to provide the second largest number of program offerings among all Kentucky regional universities.


Chairman’s Remarks – EKU December 5, 2016 Board of Regents Meeting

The financial issues that we face today are not new.    
 
I served as finance chair several years before assuming the role as Chairman of the Board of Regents.  During those early years, I realized that we needed to reevaluate our academic programs, expenditures, enrollment and revenue models.  I was concerned about the repeated use of one-time money to balance our budget and help meet our needs.
 
When I became Chairman in 2013, the Board of Regents instituted a voluntary budget reallocation based on some of these concerns.  Part of the plan at that time was to institute an in-depth academic program review, which did not occur.  The sacrifice of the 2013 efforts primarily impacted staff positions. 
 
We generated revenue to improve our facilities and provide some long overdue wage increases. We reallocated funding for student success measures, including scholarship dollars, and our enrollment, graduation and retention rates have all improved. In 2015-16, we attained the highest enrollment in the history of the University.  2016-17 saw the second highest enrollment in the history of the University.  During that time, we have had the most academically prepared classes in EKU history.
 
As I look back to February 8, 2013, I was quoted in a press release as stating:
“My goal as Board chair is to help Eastern run more efficiently … create resources that give people the tools to do it better.  We have to figure out ways to be better stewards and concentrate on what we do best. We want to be sure our hallmark programs remain centers of excellence … and take the programs that aren’t working well and re-evaluate them.”
 
In life, we all face unknown elements that can affect our health, finances, or quality of life that are outside of our control. In late 2015, it was anticipated that higher education would receive additional funding, as it had been reduced since 2008.  Instead, the 2016 legislative session mandated that higher education budgets be cut -- not only for the upcoming fiscal years, but funds were immediately withheld from the current year’s previously approved budget. 
 
The landscape of higher education changed on Election Day 2016.  All Kentucky public university budgets were adjusted to assist in shoring up the Commonwealth’s failing pension system.
 
In addition to these budget cuts, University Presidents were notified that Performance Based Funding would be the new metric for higher education.  These measures alone are predicted to be the most sweeping changes to state allocations in our history. 
 
Since Eastern Kentucky University’s inception in 1874, it has survived world wars, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights Movement and other political and social unrest. As has always been the case, we will prevail and ensure that EKU is here to serve future generations.
 
Today we have two options.
Option 1:
Do nothing and continue “business as usual.”
If we cannot recruit, retain and graduate students from our programs and offer needed student support, we will not survive under the new performance-based funding.
 
Option 2:  We deal with the facts as they have been presented to us and we accept the new rules and ADAPT.  State allocation for higher education will continue to decline.  It is a fact that the changes to state funding brought new urgency to the need for the program review process. Program review is necessary so that we are making the progress toward graduation required for us to secure the most funding. 
 
Underperforming means a cut in funding for the entire university. The Board of Regents was expecting more program cuts based upon their impact on performance-based funding.  The President and Provost asked us to consider their recommendation and their commitment to work with Deans and Chairs to continually revise programs to make them more aligned with demand and be more marketable.
 
We are at a point in time that not making decisions will place us in harm’s way.  In April, when the University began the 2016-18 budget review, we committed to engage all sectors of the University and agreed not to make abrupt decisions without input from all parties.  To my knowledge, other universities completed this process quickly and instituted their decisions.  Eight months later, we are the only Kentucky university that has not completed its plan.
 
As I look back, our decision to engage all parties has not had the success that I had hoped.  I believe that the longer the process continued, some individuals became frustrated about the dynamics of mandatory change, and thus became angry.  I believe we lost focus on the task at hand and began looking at other sectors of the University to complete their financial task. 
 
Nearly eight months after we began this process, I was disappointed that the Faculty Senate Resolution took the position of offering no direction in program suspension/modification until they saw and evaluated what other sectors were contributing.  
 
We cannot opt out of making these decisions and if you don’t participate, you have lost your voice.  If you cannot contribute to a plan to succeed, you are planning to fail. To thrive in the era of performance funding we have to set new standards for success.
 
We cannot get through these times building walls.   Walls give you a sense of protection, but they also separate … they divide and they can block out what’s going on around you. 
 
Our #1 priority is our students’ academic success. Every student in a program that is recommended for suspension will be able to complete that program, or we can help them find another degree path.
 
I am an advocate of a University that has stellar academic standing as well as a vibrant campus life, which includes housing, community engagement, Greek life, clubs and competitive athletics teams. 
 
Over the past 5 years, we have increased academic scholarships $10 million with an additional $2.8 million budgeted in the next fiscal year.  The total amount of academic financial aid in 2017-18 will be more than $33 million.
 
I am aware of commentary that reflects a division between Academics and Athletics.  I would like to clarify the position of the Board of Regents on this matter. 
 
The 2017-18 Athletics Operating Budget is approximately $8 million. This comprises only 2% of the $355 million University budget.  Athletic scholarships total $6 million annually. These student athletes’ GPAs, retention rates, graduation rates, and percentage of under-represented minorities are primary factors in performance-based funding and exceed the general student body averages. 
 
Additional reductions from the athletics budget would NOT save academic programs.  Part of our Strategic Plan includes an explicit statement that EKU will review programs and make investments in those programs attracting students, producing graduates, and bringing renown to the University. Athletics contributes to all of these.
 
As a Board of Regents, we continue to support all students. They are the reason for the University. This commitment is unwavering, and we are proud of the stellar academic and athletic accomplishments of these young people.  The suggestion that we suspend Athletics is not an option.  We are committed to our student athletes and the value they bring.  It is important that we remain Eastern Kentucky University and not Eastern Kentucky Community College. 
 
Our original task was to meet the $11 million reduction based upon the new state allocation. However, we have increased the amount of dollars to be generated by the budget reduction so that we have at least $2 million to put back into the University. 
 
We will create a long-term planning committee to provide input as to where these investments will have the most impact based upon our Performance-Based Funding report card.
 
Some preliminary suggestions from board and committee members include:
  • Faculty/staff salaries
  • Deferred maintenance
  • Development Office expansion for additional fundraising
  • Marketing and Branding
  • Further investment in successful programs
  • Additional scholarships
  • Expand Student Success initiatives
  • Programs that bring regional and national attention
  • Entrepreneurial and innovative ideas/programs that will attract donors and other sources of revenue
  • Increasing student enrollment efforts
  • New student orientation events
 
The budget cuts represent the harsh reality of our financial times, the political environment and the specific dynamics of a failed pension system in our state.  It is ironic that the budget cuts we are suffering are the means to stabilize the pension system that directly impact University employees’ retirement.
 
We also have to be good stewards of the investments in EKU.  Whether it is state funding, tuition dollars or a donor’s gift, all deserve a return on their investment.
 
During his time at EKU, former President Bob Martin stated: “Eastern has had a great heritage. Eastern is today a great institution. But neither the Eastern of the past nor the Eastern of the present will be adequate to the demands of the future.” 
 
We appreciate everyone’s contribution to this process.  There have been numerous meetings over the past months, and we thank each person who has participated.  Be assured that President Benson, I and other board members will continue to make sure the EKU voice is heard in Frankfort. 
 
We have big challenges ahead.  It will take all of us working as a team to be successful.
 
We have done great things, and we will continue.

The Value of EKU Athletics

Mission Vitality

“As a school of opportunity, Eastern Kentucky University fosters personal growth and prepares students to contribute to the success and vitality of their communities, the Commonwealth, and the world.” This is the overarching mission of the University. It is also reflected in the mission of EKU Athletics: “Fostering the academic success of students through graduation and helping them become the best version of themselves through athletics.” Both statements recognize EKU’s unwavering commitment to the educational success of all students. Additionally, University athletics fosters a campus culture of school spirit with programs that engage our current student body. Unique to athletics, the programs serve as a beacon for the university to prospective students, alumni and community partners. EKU Athletics engagement and outreach represent strategic initiatives outlined in the Vision for 2020 EKU Strategic Plangoals for:

• Student Success (2.1.4, 2.3.4, 2.3.5)

• Institutional Distinction (3.2.1,3.2.2)

• Financial Strength (4.2.1,4.2.2)

• Service to Communities and Region (6.4.1, 6.4.2)

Brand value, name recognition, earned media mentions, and digital imprints through media coverage nationwide and worldwide are greatly enhanced through athletics coverage. In many instances, Athletics represents the “front porch” to our institution. Sports is the invitation to “knock on our doors” for many Kentuckians from all walks of life seeking a quality education. University Athletics also plays a prominent role in fundraising. The majority of EKU’s largest lifetime donors have ties to athletics, either as former students who participated in EKU athletics or others who have a demonstrated affinity for collegiate sports.

The EKU Department of Athletics’ budget represents 4.3% of the overall EKU personnel and operating budget. Adhering to the mission, the University considers Athletics a direct investment to position EKU as a school of opportunity, achieve academic success at every level, recruit students to attend EKU, and encourage investment in Eastern Kentucky University by alumni, business and community partners.

Academic Success

EKU students who participate in athletics demonstrate success on the field or court and in the classroom. Eastern Kentucky University student-athletes are graduating at a rate of 81%, according to the NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) report. Eight of 13 sports met or exceeded the national GSR average for NCAA Division I institutions. Also, of utmost importance, they demonstrate academic success in critical measures currently being imposed upon higher education. Plainly stated, these are key performance measures that will determine 100% of EKU’s state funding allocations. Students participating in athletics are “key players” on our team to ensure we retain performance measure dollars in evaluation metrics, including:

*Unofficial rates provided by Student Success, to be approved by CPE, December 2016

Bratzke Student-Athlete Academic Success Center

The Bratzke Student-Athlete Academic Success Center offers a variety of support services through the EKU Division of Student Success, including mentoring, tutoring, study hall and academic advising to assist the more than 350 students on EKU Athletics teams in reaching their full academic potential. The over 3,000-square-foot Bratzke Center has grown over the years to include a tutoring center, 34-station computer lab, academic advising office suite, as well as a classroom and quiet study area.

Career Ready

EKU students who participate in athletics come to our campus representing diverse cultural, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds, with the shared purpose of success in the classroom and in athletic competition. A small percentage of these students will rise to a level of professional sports careers. Others will seek employment in a variety of fields that recognize the values of teamwork, dedication, personal responsibility, performance, competition and pursuit of excellence cultivated by intercollegiate athletics.

EKU Athletics at a Glance


Budget Forum - November 9, 2016

Budget Forum Presentation - Download [9MB PPTX]


Campus Update - October 28, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

After enjoying numerous events, and talking with many alumni, students, faculty, and staff during Homecoming weekend, I am even more confident that we are EKU strong. I talked with many people from all walks and stages of life who expressed excitement about the positive sense of momentum present on our campus. When Colonels come together for work or play it is always good news. Monday, the good news continued as we welcomed our EKU Board of Regents to campus.  Reports of positive momentum were presented on several fronts.

To wit:

  • Enrollment remains steady at a near all-time high for the University, including the second largest freshman class, and best academically prepared ever.
  • Our freshman retention rate is at an all-time high.
  • Graduation rates continue to climb, with the four-year rate having doubled over the past seven years.
  • Our many construction projects are all on schedule and on budget. When the second phase of our New Science Building is finished next summer, we will boast the largest science facility on any campus in Kentucky. The two new residence halls and Eastern Scholar House expected to open for Fall 2017 should have a positive effect on student recruitment as well.
  • Our recently concluded best-ever year for private support is already beginning to positively impact our campus and will resonate for generations to come.
  • As was noted at the Oct. 24 Regents meeting, the University remains on solid financial footing and recently received a “clean” annual audit.
  • The EKU Foundation has received a “clean” audit as well as we continue to strive to be good stewards of the investments our donors make in EKU.

In times of such difficulty, it is easy to forget how far we have come, and how we worked together with a common purpose to reach our goals. It is only human to resist change, and retreat to our own silos when we feel threatened.

But we must remember that what nourished us in years past will sustain us in the uncertain months and years ahead: an individual and collective commitment to excellence and to the ideals of shared governance, even if that sometimes means shared sacrifice for the greater good.  As I reminded the Board on Monday, we will continue to focus on people, places, and programs while remaining persistent, patient, and positive.

At its next regular meeting on Dec. 5, our Board of Regents will make some critical cost-cutting decisions that we believe will position the University for continued growth and success. A major factor in those decisions will be the performance-based metrics imposed on higher education institutions by the Commonwealth. Because we anticipate graduation rates will be a key measure of our eligibility to earn those funds back, we cannot afford to take lightly the evaluation of programs based on the number of students we are retaining and graduating.

Although still in discussion, but assuredly complex in its entirety, performance-based funding will result in a significant reduction in state appropriations for fiscal year 2018. This week, CPE President Bob King and his colleagues came to campus to further explore how the performance measures will impact EKU and other state institutions. The meeting presented a sharper focus on the expectations of this initiative. Salient points of the presentation highlighted the need for universities, including EKU, to compete for our contributed funding in several areas including:

  • Graduation rates
  • Retention rates
  • Graduating underserved minority populations
  • Retaining and graduating students with STEM related degrees

The deadline for submitting metrics to be factored into a performance-based model is December 1, 2016. If we do not come forward with an acceptable model, we anticipate a model of some others’ choosing will be foisted upon us, and the range of possible reductions will dwarf the 2%-4.5% cuts we have seen in this budget cycle so far.

It is already apparent we are making tremendous progress in enrolling, retaining and graduating our students, and plans in place to further those improvements will serve us well. However, our budget adjustments will be a long-term process and we will provide further analysis at a campus-wide budget forum scheduled for 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at the Center for the Arts. I encourage you to attend if your schedule allows, and you will have an opportunity to share your questions on the University’s financial outlook.

We face unprecedented changes not only at EKU, but also across all higher education in Kentucky. If we are to remain positioned as the state’s best regional university, serving the highest percentage of Kentucky students, we must follow the guidance of our great Commonwealth’s motto, “United we stand, divided we fall.” We are always at our best when we work together for the good of our students, each other and the institution. And that is what we will continue to do.

Thank you for your continued service.

 

Yours sincerely,

Michael Benson


Campus Update - October 14, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

Since my return to campus from attending to family matters in Utah, I have reflected on the tremendous support I received from all of you here. Your kind thoughts and comments have helped my family and me immeasurably.  For that, we thank you sincerely. 

As I had the chance to walk around campus this week, the crisp autumn air signals a change of seasons. Still, through the ever-shifting winds, there is one constant: the determination I see in our students’ faces to seize the opportunity to reach their personal potential. Just last night, I attended the annual Freshman Event for the College of Education and witnessed first-hand the excitement our students share in being on campus and pursuing their personal and educational goals.  These students are the reason EKU has persevered through good times and bad times for over 100 years.

From its inception to now, EKU has embraced the distinction as a close-knit community that reflects family traits and provides opportunity for all who live, work and play within its confines. As we face yet another time of intense challenge, I trust that each of you will look for common threads that remind us of our purpose and drive us to even greater heights of excellence at EKU. Our University and our students deserve nothing less.

In his autobiography, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote, “The moment you decide, you divide.” This year, tough decisions have been made, and more lie ahead. Unfortunately, all areas of the University have and will be affected.  But we must remain united, and I am confident we will. I continue to maintain that, to get through the unprecedented financial challenges ahead, we must work together, not against each other, to identify the savings needed in our respective areas.

Despite significant gains in enrollment and increased tuition revenue, the University still must address an $11.1 million budget deficit created by decreased state funding, mandates to increase pension fund contributions, federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) wage increases and increases in other fixed expenses, including healthcare. Here is how it all adds up:

4.5% base funding cut = $3.1 million recurring adjustment to base appropriation

KERS increase =
 $2.7 million

FLSA =
 $1.0 million (estimated)

Scholarships =
 $2.8 million

Fixed/unavoidable costs = $1.5 million

Total = $11.1 million (estimated)

This week the University Budget Review Committee, which includes faculty, staff and student leadership, met to review the recurring budget reductions already identified and implemented through the actions below.

Action Taken/Identified

Savings

Academic Affairs Reduction in Force (5 positions)

307,571

Academic Affairs Retirement Transition (6 positions)

415,219

Academic Affairs Vacant Position Sweep (12 positions)

1,044,135

Academic Affairs – M&O Reduction (Various Areas)

112,575

Athletics Summer School Scholarships

200,000

Athletics Reduction in Force (6 positions)

411,603

Cell Phone Plan Reduction

200,000

Change in Part-Time Benefits Eligibility (Estimate)

114,000

Close Somerset Campus & Regional Program Savings (3 positions)

200,000

Health Care Plan Savings (Estimated annual savings)

1,019,520

Office of the President Personnel Reduction (1 position)

102,000

Police Acceptance into Hazard Duty Retirement Plan

329,367

Shuttle Lease & Transportation Services

185,000

Student Success Reduction in Force (11 positions)

275,563

You may note another reduction in a position within athletics as Matt Roan was introduced yesterday morning as the new Director of Athletics at Nicholls State University in Louisiana.  Matt begins his new responsibilities on November 15that Nicholls State, and we will not be filling his soon-to-be-vacated position at EKU.  Matt has been with me for 5 years at both Southern Utah University and Eastern Kentucky, and I wish him and his family the very best. 

In addition to these recurring savings across academic and administrative areas, the following one-time savings have also been identified:

•  A one-time budget reduction due to changes in the staff vacation accrual policy, adding $1.15 million in projected savings for this year only. 


•  Other one-time savings for the current year, estimated at $2.2 million, representing additional planned vacancies and unfilled faculty and staff positions university-wide not reflected in the recurring budget items in the table above. 


•  A transfer from Student Success/Housing of a one-time general fund contribution of $500,000 for this fiscal year. 


I acknowledge that these figures are difficult to process. To help answer your questions and hear your concerns, a campus-wide budget forum will be scheduled in early November. I hope you will attend with an open mind, and a willingness to discuss how we meet the challenges ahead. These budget reductions are strategic decisions to preserve our ability to provide a high-quality education, first-class student support services and a well-rounded student experience. Due to a reduction in force several years ago, we find ourselves in a better financial position than some of our peer institutions, but that also means there is less to “trim.” Even with the changes in place to date, there remains a deficit we have to address. We have an opportunity to shape the direction of our approach, but time is of the essence. The Board of Regents will finalize the budget in December. If we do not provide specific direction, the Board will determine our path.

It is so easy to focus on the negative aspects of a budget reduction. To be sure, there are many; by focusing, however, on the immediate and personal impact of tough decisions, we risk losing sight of the opportunity we have to make a positive impact on our students’ lives. Over the years EKU has endured its fair share of change. Change can be painful, but it can also prove to be productive. We have an opportunity to emerge as a University that is stronger than ever. We must build on the momentum from increased enrollment, improved graduation rates, heightened academic preparedness and our campus transformation to become the state’s best regional university. We already have great people, places and programs. As I said at convocation, I challenge us all to be positive, patient and persistent in this time of rapid changes.

Enjoy the well-deserved fall break. Upon our return, and as we look forward to the energy and excitement of Homecoming Week, take the opportunity to greet our students, faculty, staff and alumni with EKU pride. I hope you find in their faces the strength and desire to address our problems together. Colonels look out for each other. As trying times test our resolve, I remain confident in each of you. I have seen the best of the Colonel spirit, and it is a powerful force for good. As we write this chapter of University history, I believe our best stories are yet to be told.

Thank you for your continued service.

Kind regards,

Mike Benson

Campus Update - September 28, 2016

Dear EKU Colleagues:

The death last week of Dr. Robert Posey, a central figure in the establishment of our College of Justice and Safety and its first dean, brought to mind some of the events that led to Eastern taking the first step toward what became our Program of Distinction. As a student of history, I am convinced we can apply some lessons and truths from what transpired here a half-century ago to our situation today.  Sincere thanks go to Jerry Wallace for bringing Dr. Posey and his story to my attention.

This really begins in 1960, when Dr. Robert Martin assumed the presidency and ushered in an unprecedented transformation of the Richmond campus. Within his first four months on the job, foreseeing rapid growth in numbers and a need for expansion, Dr. Martin initiated the purchase of a 59-acre parcel of land to the south of campus along Lancaster Road.

At that time, there were no concrete plans for the new property. It would be 15 years before the Stratton Building opened its doors there, cementing Eastern as a national leader in law enforcement education. In fact, in the early 1960s, the only requirements to become a Kentucky State Police officer were a high school diploma, a driver’s license, a clean police record, and completion of an eight-week training program.

But Dr. Posey, then director of the Kentucky State Police Academy, dreamed of a police force that would be the envy of its peers. And, one by one, he began to approach Kentucky colleges and universities to inquire about the possibility of launching a law enforcement degree program. Originally, Kentucky State University would host an associate degree program, but a lack of federal funding for law enforcement education at the time spelled its demise.

Successive inquiries at Georgetown College, the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky met resistance for different reasons. Undaunted, Dr. Posey turned to Eastern, where for the first time his dream met with a warm reception. Yes, Eastern was the only institution at the time that sensed the potential in a non-traditional program overlooked and at that time often ridiculed by its peers. Colonel Ted Bassett, then director of the KSP, joined the effort and sealed the deal. Associate degree programs, laddered with a single baccalaureate degree program, were developed in Fall 1965, and Dr. Posey himself taught the first class of 49 students the next spring. He was soon named director of the fledgling School of Law Enforcement.

Because of the persistence of Dr. Posey and the vision of Dr. Martin, Eastern had an all-important head start on the nation’s other colleges and universities and was in position to take advantage of massive federal funding that became available in 1968.

Fast forward five decades.  Wrangle as we must in today’s fiscal climate over academic programs, health care plans and cost reductions, our future remains bright if we keep a bold long-range vision front and center, continue to follow our Strategic Plan and remain open to new possibilities. Just as no one could have envisioned in 1960 that sleepy Eastern Kentucky State College would soon see the genesis of an internationally renowned College of Justice & Safety, who knows today what our University’s next claim to fame might be?

To wit, amidst the sobering budget news, there remain encouraging signs of progress on many fronts:

  • Our four-year graduation rate has nearly doubled in the past seven years, and our five- and six-year rates are up significantly as well. As we approach performance-based funding, this improvement is critical.
  • As enrollment has remained steady at approximately 17,000, we continue to attract more and more of the best and brightest students. We welcomed to campus this fall the best academically prepared freshman class in our institution’s history.
  • Record levels of private support continue to support our academic programming. An estate gift has established the Alan C. Beeler Endowed Professorship in Music. In our School of Business, Dr. Allen Engle has been named the Harold Glenn Campbell Chair in International Business, and Dr. Lee Allison has been awarded the Karl D. Bays Professorship in Business.
  • Our students and faculty continue to find meaningful ways to serve our region. Eleven of our students, accompanied by Dr. Jennifer Wies and Dr. Kelly Watson of our faculty, fanned out across eastern Kentucky one recent weekend to test water quality as part of the annual Big Dip project. The EKU team was sponsored by the Appalachian Studies and Environmental Sustainability and Stewardship programs and was joined by other volunteers from several KCTCS campuses in the area.
  • A shout-out, also, to Dr. Jason Marion of our Environmental Health faculty, who was recently named president of the Association of Environmental Health Academic Programs.
  • On Thursday, Oct. 13, we will honor one of our best and, at the same time, have the opportunity to hear from a renowned philosopher. The inaugural Ron Messerich Lecture in Philosophy and Religion will be presented by Tom Morris, who has been described as “the world’s happiest philosopher.” One of Morris’s book titles is “If Aristotle Ran General Motors,” so that tells us all we need to know. Dr. Messerich has dedicated 33 years to our University, many as a department chair, and is most deserving of this honor. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. in O’Donnell Hall of the Whitlock Building.

Finally, remember to mark your calendars for Homecoming and Reunion Weekend Oct. 20-23. This year, we are combining Homecoming with what was formerly Alumni Weekend every April. The theme this year is “Golden Opportunities,” in recognition of our 50th anniversary of achieving university status.

Thank you for your continued service to Eastern Kentucky University.  In spite of what might be viewed as intractable problems and insurmountable obstacles, it is a great time to be part of the Colonel Family.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Benson


2017 University Health Insurance Plan Information & Update - September 21, 2016

Update 9/22/2016:

The Kentucky Supreme Court ruling adds certainty to the budgeting process and allows us to better plan for meeting the needs of our current and future students. The $1.3 million that will be returned to EKU is a one-time payment, and non-recurring funds sequestered through this process. This adjustment to the 2015-16 budget was bridged through contingency funds, and EKU’s intention is to return these funds to our contingency.

EKU will continue to look at ways to address recurring budget needs without sacrificing our mission to provide a quality education and student experience for  the nearly 17,000 students we serve. The Commonwealth as a whole benefits from state support of our public institutions.

Original Message:

This message is being sent on behalf of Sarah S. Pitt, Chief Human Resources Officer

Following the direction of and approval by the Board of Regents, EKU is restructuring its health insurance plans to lower University expenses in light of the $11.1 million budget impact the University faces. The reality is EKU’s benefits costs have steadily increased on average by 7-8 percent each year, yet we have not seen a significant shift in our benefit plans or premiums since 2005. The last 12 months alone, our claims increased by $1,120,000. This additional cost comes at a time the University also faces annual decreases in state funding, increases in pension fund contributions and the added costs of new federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requirements.

The University has maintained benefit plans that are no longer industry standards and are out of line with our peer institutions. We must make adjustments now to control benefit expenses and reduce the risk of further cuts to personnel, services or programs that could greatly affect our students.

The University’s health care provider network has not changed and remains with Anthem.  Employees will have three levels of coverage to choose from in 2017. It is important to note, depending on your selections during open enrollment, your premiums could increase, stay the same or even decrease. This will vary by individual. As with any major purchase or investment, healthcare requires careful research and calls for comparison if, for example, you have coverage options through a spouse/partner’s employer. These are important choices that will require extra attention and evaluation to determine the best and the most cost-effective choice for yourself and any covered dependents.

As you evaluate your plan choices, it is important to note that every plan has $0 copay for preventative care. This means annual physicals, recommended preventative screenings and well visits are fully covered by each health plan. Because the new plan options will require additional research and review, the open enrollment period has been lengthened and is scheduled for October 10-28.  All faculty and staff must complete the mandatory open enrollment process this year. Attached is summary information for 2017 health plan benefits with a breakdown of premiums and coverage options. 2017 Benefit Guides will also be mailed to employees in the weeks ahead. The University will provide educational workshops, forums and one-on-one policy review sessions to help explain the plan options.

For assistance with your enrollment, employee forums are scheduled:

  • October 5 (9-11 a.m. and 1:30-3:30 p.m.) & 6 (1:30-3:30 p.m.) (Location TBD)

Also, plan to visit one of the Benefits Expos at these dates and locations:

  • October 11 & 12, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Perkins Quads
  • October 24 & 25, 9 a.m-4 p.m., Keen Johnson Ballroom

You will find additional information in the attached FAQs and online at HR Benefits 2017. The website will be regularly updated as plan documents are finalized.

We know healthcare options are important choices for you and your family, and we are committed as a University to provide educational workshops, forums and one-on-one policy review sessions to help you choose a plan that is the best fit for your personal budget and health needs.

Attachment 1: 2017 Health Insurance FAQs

Attachment 2: 2017 Health Plan Rates


Benefits and Open Enrollment Information - September 12, 2016

This message is being sent on behalf of Sarah S. Pitt, Chief Human Resources Officer

Presently, all University benefits are under review and awaiting final approval.  In consultation with the University’s benefits consultant, Neace Lukens, recommendations for health insurance benefits for the upcoming year, (calendar year 2017), have been developed.  These recommendations are briefly summarized below.

  • Offer two PPO plans (like EKU’s current plans);
  • Offer a new Consumer Driven Health Plan (CDHP), along with a Health Savings Account (HSA) funded by the University;
  • The current “High Plan” will no longer be offered;
  • Implement a defined health insurance contribution at $450/employee; $600/family plan;
  • Integrate the Health You at EKU wellness program with premium discounts for meeting wellness program criteria;
  • Implement a $40 tobacco surcharge following the Affordable Care Act (ACA) guidelines;
  • Fund 50% of the premium for the preventive dental care program, a reduction from 100% funding.

These changes to our health insurance plans are estimated to save approximately $2.2 million; of which $800,000 is savings for employees with the addition of the Consumer Driven Health Plan.  We know that nearly 50% of our employees spent less than $1,000 on health care in the last 12 months; when spouses and dependents are included, nearly 54%  of all participants spent less than $1,000.
 
It is extremely important that employees make wise health insurance decisions and review their health care expenditures at https://www.anthem.com/health-insurance/home/overview.  The Benefits Advisory Committee, Faculty Senate and Staff Council will be hosting forums to discuss plan changes soon, prior to the Open Enrollment Period/Benefits Fair.  Attached is a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that has been developed to provide as much information as possible.  We will continue to develop the FAQs and update this resource on the Human Resources website.
 
Please mark your calendar for the upcoming Open Enrollment Period, which is scheduled for October 10, 2016, through October 28, 2016.  Detailed instructions for completing your online enrollment will soon be available on the Human Resources website.  Once the enrollment period opens, you may complete your enrollment online and make changes up through the closing date.  Please note that this will be a mandatory open enrollment.  This means that every benefit-eligible employee MUST enroll using the online enrollment process to participate in benefits for 2017. 
 
The Open Enrollment Period allows you the opportunity to enroll in or change your healthcare coverage, dental insurance, vision insurance, life insurance, voluntary benefits,  flexible spending accounts,  and more.  This is the time to review your options and make choices for your 2017 coverages.   The selections you make during enrollment will be in effect for all of 2017, unless you have a qualifying event.  If you are a participant in a flexible spending program for healthcare and/or dependent care and wish to continue participating in 2017, you must re-enroll during open enrollment.
 
Starting soon, materials and resources will become available, educational forums and meetings will be scheduled, and employees will have the opportunity to participate in individual sessions to assist in making health insurance plan decisions. We look forward to meeting with you and helping you walk through the process together!

Attachment 1: FAQ Health Insurance


Custodial & Grounds RFP - FAQs - August 30, 2016

At the direction of the EKU Board of Regents, Facilities Services personnel were informed yesterday that the University would be requesting proposals from vendors for the operation of custodial and grounds services for the University.  This process is referred to as a Request for Proposal, or RFP, process.  This is only a request for proposals and no decision has been made as to whether the University will go in this direction.

The University will thoroughly review the proposed cost of these services and workforce transition plans, with a goal to offer existing employees the opportunity to be employed by a third-party vendor and with comparable benefit packages, if the University chooses to proceed with a proposal for these services. No decision has been made to outsource custodial and grounds services at this time. We understand this process will likely raise questions and concerns. The attached FAQs provide additional information on the RFP and how the University will proceed with this evaluation.


Program Review Update - Aug. 25, 2016

Dear EKU Faculty:

As was to be expected, the release of the list of programs under review has created a great deal of interest and caused a similar amount of angst.  We find ourselves in this position thanks in large part to the actions of others: the reduction of our state appropriation and the proposed performance-based funding model, which is still under development.   In order to meet and overcome these challenges, we must be deliberate in our thinking and far-sighted in our vision.  To see further information regarding the recommendations from the Academic Budget Review Sub-Committee, please see the FAQs.

One important question is whether the affected academic programs will have the opportunity to address their records of graduating only small numbers of students or propose revisions to attract new students at lower cost.  
The answer is, “yes,” this opportunity will be provided. 
The department chair or program coordinator for each program being recommended for suspension will be scheduled for a 15-minute presentation/proposal at the Council on Academic Affairs on September 15, 2016.

Each program recommended for suspension should consider factors such as the following in preparing their presentation:
What will be done differently to reverse the 3- and 8-year low-enrollment trends? 
What is the essential content of the discipline that needs to be retained to serve significant numbers of students? 
What are the critical content areas required to support other majors?
Are there opportunities to modify programs to be more in-line with market demands?   Are there new collaborations that might be more efficient and more marketable?
How might we develop degree programs within our current offerings and faculty resources that will be more eagerly sought by both students and potential employers? 

Another important question is:
Is this budget process about reducing our support for a liberal education or deviating from our core mission as a regional comprehensive university committed to educating students in our service region and beyond?
Our answer is an emphatic: “Absolutely no.”  It is, however, about ensuring our degree offerings attract students to EKU, provide them with a strong academic experience while here, and prepare them to be successful after graduation. It is also about using our limited resources as wisely as possible and adjusting our budgets to conform to the new reality.

We look forward to working with you as we develop plans, programs, and degree offerings which will serve our institution now and into the future.

Thank you very much for your consideration.
Yours sincerely,
Michael Benson and Janna Vice

Program Review FAQ

Budget Update - July 5, 2016

Dear Campus Colleagues:
 
We face a time at Eastern Kentucky University when every area of our organization is making individual budget adjustments that will collectively strengthen our University and fulfill the mission to serve our students. While we recognize each department, area or unit has unique needs and challenges, in the spirit of our state motto – “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” – these decisions require a commitment to collaboration.
 
The University Budget Review Committee, convened by President Benson is a joint body formed of subcommittees representing faculty, staff and student leadership. The University Budget Review Committee members include:
 
Academic Subcommittee
Staff/Student Subcommittee
Senior VP for Academics & Provost
Executive Vice President & University Counsel
Academic Deans
University Vice Presidents
Faculty Regent
Director for Athletics
Faculty Senate Chair
Staff Regent
Chair of Chairs Association
Staff Council Chair
SGA President
SGA Vice President
 
The full committee has been meeting monthly since early May and the subcommittees meet regularly between joint meetings to identify ways to improve efficiencies within our institution. 
 
A number of items have been identified for discussion, including a review of our current benefit costs and academic program offerings. Work is underway with Human Resources and the Office of Finance & Administration to compare health care plans and costs with other Kentucky comprehensive universities. Evaluating our coverage options related to our peer institutions is the first step in assessing our current benefit plans. 
 
You have likely heard discussion of the Academic Program Review process, and we remind you the Board of Regents has asked that an in-depth review of programs be conducted with the findings presented to the Board in November. More details on the Committee’s review and recommendations will be shared with the Council on Academic Affairs and the Faculty Senate whe

Custodial & Grounds RFP - FAQs - August 30, 2016

At the direction of the EKU Board of Regents, Facilities Services personnel were informed yesterday that the University would be requesting proposals from vendors for the operation of custodial and grounds services for the University.  This process is referred to as a Request for Proposal, or RFP, process.  This is only a request for proposals and no decision has been made as to whether the University will go in this direction.

The University will thoroughly review the proposed cost of these services and workforce transition plans, with a goal to offer existing employees the opportunity to be employed by a third-party vendor and with comparable benefit packages, if the University chooses to proceed with a proposal for these services. No decision has been made to outsource custodial and grounds services at this time. We understand this process will likely raise questions and concerns. The attached FAQs provide additional information on the RFP and how the University will proceed with this evaluation.


Program Review Update - Aug. 25, 2016

Dear EKU Faculty:

As was to be expected, the release of the list of programs under review has created a great deal of interest and caused a similar amount of angst.  We find ourselves in this position thanks in large part to the actions of others: the reduction of our state appropriation and the proposed performance-based funding model, which is still under development.   In order to meet and overcome these challenges, we must be deliberate in our thinking and far-sighted in our vision.  To see further information regarding the recommendations from the Academic Budget Review Sub-Committee, please see the FAQs.

One important question is whether the affected academic programs will have the opportunity to address their records of graduating only small numbers of students or propose revisions to attract new students at lower cost.  
The answer is, “yes,” this opportunity will be provided. 
The department chair or program coordinator for each program being recommended for suspension will be scheduled for a 15-minute presentation/proposal at the Council on Academic Affairs on September 15, 2016.

Each program recommended for suspension should consider factors such as the following in preparing their presentation:
What will be done differently to reverse the 3- and 8-year low-enrollment trends? 
What is the essential content of the discipline that needs to be retained to serve significant numbers of students? 
What are the critical content areas required to support other majors?
Are there opportunities to modify programs to be more in-line with market demands?   Are there new collaborations that might be more efficient and more marketable?
How might we develop degree programs within our current offerings and faculty resources that will be more eagerly sought by both students and potential employers? 

Another important question is:
Is this budget process about reducing our support for a liberal education or deviating from our core mission as a regional comprehensive university committed to educating students in our service region and beyond?
Our answer is an emphatic: “Absolutely no.”  It is, however, about ensuring our degree offerings attract students to EKU, provide them with a strong academic experience while here, and prepare them to be successful after graduation. It is also about using our limited resources as wisely as possible and adjusting our budgets to conform to the new reality.

We look forward to working with you as we develop plans, programs, and degree offerings which will serve our institution now and into the future.

Thank you very much for your consideration.
Yours sincerely,
Michael Benson and Janna Vice

Program Review FAQ

Budget Update - July 5, 2016

Dear Campus Colleagues:
 
We face a time at Eastern Kentucky University when every area of our organization is making individual budget adjustments that will collectively strengthen our University and fulfill the mission to serve our students. While we recognize each department, area or unit has unique needs and challenges, in the spirit of our state motto – “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” – these decisions require a commitment to collaboration.
 
The University Budget Review Committee, convened by President Benson is a joint body formed of subcommittees representing faculty, staff and student leadership. The University Budget Review Committee members include:
 
Academic Subcommittee
Staff/Student Subcommittee
Senior VP for Academics & Provost
Executive Vice President & University Counsel
Academic Deans
University Vice Presidents
Faculty Regent
Director for Athletics
Faculty Senate Chair
Staff Regent
Chair of Chairs Association
Staff Council Chair
SGA President
SGA Vice President
 
The full committee has been meeting monthly since early May and the subcommittees meet regularly between joint meetings to identify ways to improve efficiencies within our institution. 
 
A number of items have been identified for discussion, including a review of our current benefit costs and academic program offerings. Work is underway with Human Resources and the Office of Finance & Administration to compare health care plans and costs with other Kentucky comprehensive universities. Evaluating our coverage options related to our peer institutions is the first step in assessing our current benefit plans. 
 
You have likely heard discussion of the Academic Program Review process, and we remind you the Board of Regents has asked that an in-depth review of programs be conducted with the findings presented to the Board in November. More details on the Committee’s review and recommendations will be shared with the Council on Academic Affairs and the Faculty Senate when all faculty return in August.
 
The Committee has also discussed measures already approved by the Board, including a total of more than $2.7 million in University savings from reductions and reorganization of positions and an estimated $1.2 million in savings from reduced vacation accrual.  There has been much discussion around athletics, and we announced a few weeks ago that an immediate reduction of $200,000 was being taken from the scholarship budget.  This week the Department of Athletics announced an additional $200,000 reduction from four recently-eliminated staff positions within this department.  We have also announced the closing of our Somerset campus. The committee continues its work to identify additional savings for the University, and will share more information on these and other recommendations as the work progresses.
 
Strengthened by our momentum and growth, we are prepared to face the opportunities that lie ahead in the coming year. We have made great strides in recruitment and retention. We have nationally recognized programs, faculty and staff. We are in the midst of the first campus revitalization in half a century that includes new residence halls, a parking garage and dining facility all made possible by private partnerships.  It is our expectation that the current financial concerns will not overshadow these accomplishments nor deter our aspirations for this great University. We face challenges together, and we will also celebrate our success as one EKU family. As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
 
We hope you are enjoying your summer and look forward to seeing everyone back on campus in August.
 
Sincerely,
 
The University Budget Review Committee

Budget Update - May 31, 2016

Dear Campus Colleagues:
As we continue to address the financial realities in front of us, it remains critical that each employee at Eastern Kentucky University has access to accurate information; this is especially true as it pertains to our budget.
 
Recently, I came across the following insight from a popular management author, Jurgen Appelo:
 
"When people lack good information, they will invent some information themselves. When they don't know how well their project is doing, they will try to guess. When they don't know how other teams are performing, they will make assumptions. … To prevent bad information from flowing through the organization you have to give people good information."
 
Although information regarding EKU’s operating budget is readily available on the budgeting office website (see http://budgeting.eku.edu/operating-budget and http://budgeting.eku.edu/financial-updates) it is my experience that, apart from university administrators who regularly engage with this material, few are aware of it and fewer still take time to study it.  This information is readily available and I urge you to familiarize yourself with its content and detail.
 
Given the current financial situation, it is imperative that we all remain fully informed and engaged in this process. I encourage us all to follow the example of our new faculty regent, Dr. Richard Day, who spent the past several weeks poring over this material and digging into the financial underpinnings of our institution and meeting regularly with Vice President Barry Poynter and members of his staff. With the information and knowledge Dr. Day gained, he is in a great position to serve us by offering wise counsel and realistic suggestions which will aid the university in making prudent decisions.
 
While I still hope you will visit the budgeting website and review the materials, let me share just a few of the highlights of EKU’s financial structure to help us share a common understanding of our financials.  It is in the form of the pie chart which clearly identifies what percentage of our budget is spent on which areas and exactly what functions these areas serve.
 
Expense Category*
Brief Description/Primary Elements
Instruction
Academic departments
Institutional Support
The institutional support category includes central, executive-level activities concerned with the
management and long-range planning for the entire University, as opposed to support of specific
programs or units.  This includes Development, Finance & Administration, Human Resources, Information
Technology, President, Provost, Public Relations
Scholarships & Fellowships
Scholarships (Regent's, Presidential, Founder's, Veteran's, KCTCS Transfer, Music, Honors, others),
Graduate Student Waiver
Academic Support
Model, Libraries, Deans, University Programs
Plant Oper & Maint
Utilities, Facilities Services, Heat Plant, deferred maintenance, custodial services, campus and
grounds maintenance
Student Services
Counseling Center, Admissions, Student Health Services, Student Financial Assistance, Student Success,
Registrar, Athletics**
Public Service
Center for Performing Arts, Hummel Planetarium, WEKU, Regional Stewardship
Research
Institutional match funds, institutionally-sponsored research, sponsored program expenditures
* Expense Categories are from the National Association of College & University Business Officers (NACUBO) program classification codes (expenditure categories), as adopted by higher education for grouping budgets and expenditures.
One final point: some have questioned as to why our construction projects continue on campus while positions are being eliminated and programs are under review.
 
** The Athletics budget for fiscal year 2015-16 is $8,628,883, which is 3.6% of the total Eastern Kentucky University Education & General budget.  This amount does not include athletic scholarships ($5,863,436), which are included in the Scholarships & Fellowships category.  With athletic scholarships included, the total is $14,492,319, which is 6.1% of the total Eastern Kentucky University Education & General budget.
 
As I have stated in the past, the three largest construction projects currently underway – and to be launched in the coming weeks – are all funded through 3 completely separate funding sources. First, Phase II of the Science complex (slated to be completed in Fall 2017) was funded in 2014 by the General Assembly at a cost of over $66 million.  Second, our new residence halls (Martin Hall replacement and the new hall along Kit Carson) are being funded by a private developer with NO university funds whatsoever.  That we were able to attract private entities to invest $75 million in these projects speaks to the sound financial position in which EKU finds itself due to prudent fiscal management and our healthy bond rating.  And third, our food vendor will soon be breaking ground on over $30 million in capital investments across campus, with the majority of those funds being spent on a new dining hall which will serve as an anchor to the center of campus as we continue to improve and revitalize our aging infrastructure.  This contract is still being finalized, but once it is, we will release the renderings of this new facility and further details as to this unprecedented investment in Eastern Kentucky University.
 
My hope is that this information is helpful and will enable all of us to understand how our budget is developed and spent.  We are stewards of both the public trust and public funds and would do well by the taxpayers of Kentucky to know how we are utilizing the resources entrusted to our institution.
 
Thanks for your continued service to EKU.
 
Kind regards,
 
Mike Benson

Budget Update - May 26, 2016

Dear Campus Colleagues:

 

Our Board of Regents held a special meeting on Wednesday to assist in our ongoing evaluations of University budget challenges. As the Board continues to gather and assesses information and data, there were no broad recommendations yesterday. Board Chair Craig Turner did, however, offer a clear statement on the budget process.  Even as all of Kentucky’s public higher education institutions face decreases in funding for the next two years, Eastern Kentucky University is uniquely positioned to respond to our fiscal needs, and any decision made will come after thoughtful discussion and review.

You have undoubtedly read the recent headlines of sweeping eliminations of positions, departments and programs at other Kentucky colleges and universities.

We remain committed to our approach of seeking out opportunities that lie within our budget constraints. Our intent is to position EKU students in the best possible educational environment.

The unfortunate budget challenges we face require our attention and lengthy discussions at a time when our University is actually experiencing great growth and momentum. We have seen tremendous gains in enrollment, retention and recruitment. These successes, partnered with strategic budget allocations and adjustments over the past several years, have landed us on stronger financial ground than other affected colleges and universities. 

Through the work of the Campus Budget Review Committee we have made strategic decisions that will reduce redundancies and increase efficiencies. We have also mustered our best effort to safeguard the high quality of our instruction and our mission of student success.  At this point, in consultation with the President’s Council and Board of Regents, the committee has recommended less than 20 job eliminations in both academic and administrative areas.

Student Success has proactively responded to department position eliminations by implementing a staff restructuring that ensures we continue to meet the needs of our students. The new structure supports a focus on recruitment, retention and graduation rates. It positions the University to meet the measures called for by the Governor and inherent in the proposed performance based funding which goes into effect in 2018.

Further, after much review and as an additional cost-saving measure, we will be closing the current Somerset campus space in June.  We are actively pursuing other options that will allow us to continue providing educational opportunities to students in that area.

The Campus Budget Review Committee will continue its work through the summer months and the Board of Regents has requested additional information from this group and the President’s Council as the budget is finalized and approved for FY -16-17.  As outlined in a previous message from Provost Janna Vice, program review will not officially begin until faculty return to campus in mid-August.  We will seek involvement from all those interested in participating in this process.

Chair Turner has given us the charge of presenting to the Board the findings of this program review – in addition to the work of the Faculty Workload Committee being chaired by Professor Shirley O’Brien – at the November Board meeting.

Difficult decisions have been made. More are yet to come. We continue to make all assessments with collective input across all campus areas.  Most importantly, we will continue to provide the best experience for our students. They are always our top priority.  I thank you for your continued commitment and service to the University. My office will continue to provide updates as we move forward together.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Mike Benson


Budget Update - May 18, 2016

Dear Campus Colleagues:
 
I hope the end of the semester went well and thanks to all of you who helped celebrate our students’ success through the Commencement activities last weekend.  Each college did a fantastic job in showcasing our graduates – and the faculty and staff who helped them achieve their academic and personal goals – and I thank all who helped make the ceremonies come off so well.
 
On a not-so-heartening note, we just learned this afternoon that Judge Thomas Wingate has ruled that Republican Governor Matt Bevin can cut the budgets of public colleges and universities without the approval of the state legislature.
 
Franklin County Circuit Judge Wingate says two state laws allow Bevin to reduce allotments for public colleges and universities. Wingate ruled while the governor’s powers are usually confined to the state constitution, the legislature can give the governor additional powers by passing laws. He said Bevin’s cuts of nearly $18 million to colleges and universities this year are not improper.
 
In response to the ruling, Governor Bevin issued the following statement:  "We are grateful for the court's prompt decision confirming our ability to manage the Commonwealth's finances in a fiscally responsible manner. We appreciate that the court ruled as we anticipated, acknowledging that Attorney General Beshear's position was 'both an irresponsible one and an unsustainable one for a government to take.' While others focus on politically motivated attacks, we continue to focus on strengthening Kentucky's fiscal foundation."
 
As you know, Governor Bevin proposed the cuts in January. The state legislature did not approve them, but Governor Bevin ordered the cuts anyway. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear then sued the Governor.  We anticipate the Attorney General will pursue an appeal.
 
Until the case reaches a final resolution, Judge Wingate has ordered the Governor to leave the collective amount of cuts for public institutions, $18 million, alone.  
 
The EKU Board of Regents is meeting next week to consider the progress made by the Campus Budget Review Committee and to review options of how the University might meet the mandated cuts we face.
 
We will continue to keep you updated on any further developments. 
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Mike Benson

Budget Update - May 13, 2016

Dear Campus Colleagues:
 
As I have relayed to you on multiple occasions over the past several months, the budget reality we face has resulted in time not being our friend.  In our collective, and well-intentioned, desire to reduce our expenses and meet the challenges thrust upon us, we announced a variety of immediate steps.  These were considered and ratified by our Board of Regents a few weeks ago. 
 
One of these steps, however, requires more study and examination before the actual saving potential can be verified. This is our employee tuition waiver policy. 
 
As such, we will not make any changes to our current policy of 12 credit hours per semester for employees and their dependents until we take the necessary time to study the true financial impact a change in this policy may or may not have on EKU.   
 
When given the opportunity, I often talk about the transformative power of education. Education has the most potential to improve a person’s life trajectory than anything else. To borrow Horace Mann’s description, education is the great equalizer in our society.  If we, as an educational institution, can provide MORE access for MORE people, we are doing precisely what we exist to do. 
 
I am grateful for the feedback I have received from faculty and staff on this issue and thank our University Budget Review Committee for their participation thus far in helping us address the acute challenges ahead of us. 
 
Have a wonderful summer, and we look forward to the start of a great new academic year in August. 
 
Kind regards, 
 
Mike Benson

Budget Update - May 11, 2016

Dear Campus Colleagues:
 
The inaugural meeting of our University Budget Review Committee was yesterday morning.  It was a very productive meeting.  Thanks to all who have agreed to serve on this Committee and for the time and energy they will expend over the next several weeks and months as we work together to address our budgetary challenges.
 
As we discussed some of the initial institutional savings we have proposed, and which our EKU Board of Regents recently approved, it was noted that the timing of the change to our tuition benefit may not be the best for those employees who either planned to take classes or have their dependents avail themselves of this benefit for the coming Fall semester.  As such, we have delayed the implementation of this change to the benefit until January 1, 2017.  The 12-hour tuition benefit, as currently stated in our employee manual, will be honored for Fall semester 2016. 
 
We hope this adjustment is helpful to all our employees and indicative of the type of collaborative effort we intend to engage in now and in the future with our Budget Review Committee.  There may be additional modifications to some of the plans we are proposing.  Therefore, regular notifications -- as well as FAQs -- will be disseminated to campus in an effort to keep everyone informed and up-to-date.
 
If you have any questions relative to this change or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact our HR office.
 
Thanks for your continued service to EKU.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Mike Benson

Budget Update - April 28, 2016

Dear Campus Colleagues:
 
Yesterday, our Board of Regents took some important steps to adjust to the budget challenges we face as an institution. Chair Craig Turner, and the full Board, offered their support to assist in decisions which will allow the University to remain focused on our core mission of teaching and learning, while also identifying efficiencies across every area of the University. As the Board and University leadership reviewed possible cost-saving and cost-avoidance measures, we addressed a total budget impact of $11.1 million.
 
You have undoubtedly heard much discussion of the cuts to our state appropriation (a 4.5 percent reduction for each of the next two years, or $3.1 million loss each year), but we must also address an additional estimated $8 million increase due to retirement contribution mandates, fixed expenses, additional investments in financial aid, and yet-to-be-determined costs associated with Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requirements. As we face these rising costs, the Board, following the parameters set by the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) approved a 5% tuition increase for 2016-17 that equals a total of $209 semester/$418 a year. This increase is below the cap set by CPE and represents $3.8 million of increased revenue.  To identify an additional $7.3 million in savings, the Board reviewed and approved the following measures as our initial efforts in reaching our mandated reduction:
 
Faculty Workload, Lecturer and Adjunct Committee
A committee led by Faculty Senate Chair Dr. Shirley O’Brien will be charged with increasing efficiencies, reducing our institutional reliance on adjuncts and part-time faculty, reviewing faculty release accountability and evaluating faculty workload.
 
Tuition Waiver
The Board understands that EKU strives to meet the Strategic Plan’s goal of providing excellent benefits and professional development opportunities.  State statutes require the University to provide only six (6) hours in tuition waivers per semester, and, currently, EKU grants twelve (12) hours per semester.  The Board directed a reduction of total number of hours per semester to nine (9). These hours may still be shared with dependents and spouses.
Note: The tuition benefit change goes into effect on January 1, 2017.
 
Vacation Accrual Policy
The Board approved an adjustment to the current vacation accrual policy. Beginning July 1, 2017, employees may only accrue one year of allowed vacation time. Existing accrued vacation time in excess of one year’s allotment must be used by June 30, 2017, or will be lost. Employees will retain EKU time, holidays, and any additional time designated by the President.
 
University Cell Phones
The Board acknowledges that some positions require use of a cell phone. The University currently extends a cell phone or stipend to many EKU employees at a significant cost each year.  Effective July 1, 2016, the future use of University-issued cell phones, or receipt of stipends, will be determined by the appropriate Vice President.
 
University Grants & Contracts
Each year, EKU provides over $35 million in contractual services to the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  While these agreements cover the direct costs of the programs, the University is reimbursed for the indirect cost required to support these agreements at rates far below our lowest federally-approved rate.  Historically, the low reimbursement rates have been justified on the grounds that the state already provides support to universities through our state appropriations.  The University has seen very little change in the indirect cost reimbursement rates over the past decade, while state support to universities continues to erode. 
 
Even at our lowest approved indirect cost rate, the revenue lost by the University is approximately $2.7 million each year.  As a result of this disparity, the Board directed the University to seek an indirect cost reimbursement rate that asks agencies to assume their fair share of the burden.  We fully recognize that this approach may jeopardize long-standing agreements.  However, the looming prospects of further cuts and, more importantly, a move to a stronger performance-based funding model, mean that we will be less able to subsidize programs that do not contribute directly to our performance metrics. 
 
It is our expectation that our state agency partners will recognize their obligation to fully support these programs.  If so, the University could realize additional revenue of approximately $1.5 million to the General Fund each year, which would allow us to shift our institutional resources toward programs that will more directly affect our likely performance metrics.
 
Hiring Freeze
The Board directed the University to lift the hiring freeze for student employment and grant-funded positions and authorized approval of additional hiring on a case-by-case basis as recommended to the President by Deans and Vice Presidents.
 
It is important to note as we assess our future spending, our current capital projects are funded through state appropriations and private partnerships, not tuition dollars, and we are fortunate we can continue the momentum of our campus revitalization through these creative financing options. Improvements to our facilities will allow us to continue to attract the best and brightest students from our service region and beyond.
 
In addition to each of these steps, the board will continue to review potential cost savings in the areas of athletics, regional campuses, travel and employee benefits. As we continue to discuss these adjustments I have also formed a University Budget Review Committee, consisting of a balance of faculty and staff leadership, and I will share more details on the members of this committee soon.  To elicit input from all areas of campus will be vital to this process as we work together in the coming weeks and months.
 
These decisions are not easy and all will be approached with a goal of limited impact to our students and our employees, but we simply must make adjustments now to build a solid future for our University.  As Chair Turner said today: “Students are going to remain our primary focus. We will not compromise our academic standards, and our faculty and staff are our greatest asset.”  
 
Finally, as we navigate the turbulent times in which we find ourselves, I am pleased to announce that Dr. Janna Vice has agreed to remain in the Provost role until a permanent replacement is found.  Her presence in this position will allow us to focus on our reaccreditation processes while forging ahead with identifying her successor.  As I announced last week, Laurie Carter and Donna Corley have agreed to serve as co-chairs of the search committee and are in the process of formulating the committee, drafting a position announcement, and soliciting from campus your ideas as to what skills/attributes/experience our next EKU Provost must possess.
 
Laurie remains my chief deputy and will be charged with additional responsibilities as we formulate the best possible management structure moving forward.  Performance-based funding will require that academic affairs and student success strategically align and work closely together as we meet the metrics set for all Kentucky institutions of higher education.  Additional details about realignments will be forthcoming.
 
As more than 700 of our colleagues gathered Monday at historic Elmwood, I was reminded that our greatest strength lies in our unity as a family. Just as families pull together during tough times so will we – that is what Colonels do.
 
Thank you for your continued service.
 
Yours sincerely,
Mike Benson

Budget Update - April 19, 2016

The message distributed Monday detailed some of the plans we are developing, in concert with the EKU Board of Regents, to address the reductions we are now facing given the approved state budget taking effect in a few weeks. 
 
We will continue to gather your ideas as to how we might meet this new budgetary reality, together, across all campus areas. I sincerely hope all who are interested in participating by sharing ideas and perspectives will do so.  To that end, EKU Board of Regents Chair Craig Turner is meeting with the Chairs Association Monday in advance of the full Board meeting next Wednesday to hear from that group regarding its concerns and priorities.  I intend to meet with that same group, and others, before the end of this semester. 
 
The hiring freeze implemented on Friday gives us a bit of time.  When asked why this freeze was put into place, my response is that we need to first focus on our current employees at present and worry about future needs as we gather the full details of the state’s plan for higher education funding.
 
As we continue our review of academic programs and administrative functions across the University – a process that will take time and require thoughtful and strategic focus – there are some areas the Board of Regents plans to discuss next week.  We have shared a list of cost-saving suggestions gathered from faculty, staff, and students, in various forms, to provide a launching point for our discussion.  While we identify cost-saving measures in stages, I can assure you we are looking to improve efficiencies in all areas of spending including, but not limited to, business expenses, staffing, administration, athletics and academics. We plan to review these with the Board of Regents next week and seek the Board’s direction in implementing these immediate cost-saving measures.  In the meantime, I wanted to share with you restructuring plans designed to realize more efficiencies and more closely align programs and areas with outcomes. 
 
All these changes will take effect July 1, 2016.
 
Academic Affairs – Administrative Restructuring
With performance-based funding on the horizon, and with as much as 25% of our base appropriation by 2017 tied to yet-to-be-determined metrics, Academic Affairs requires a flexible administrative structure capable of answering the call for the challenges ahead.  To meet these responsibilities, the University will establish an Executive Vice President & Interim Provost, and I have asked Laurie Carter, J.D., to step into this role.  Laurie is a strong and accomplished academic leader whose experience demonstrates a commitment to faculty excellence and student success.  Since August 2014, Laurie has served as the Executive Vice President and University Counsel, and we have seen tremendous growth in the area of Student Success and reached record enrollment.  Prior to her tenure at EKU, Laurie was a faculty member at The Julliard School in New  York City and Seton Hall University. She spent over ten years as a member of The Julliard School Graduate and Liberal Arts faculty, while supervising sixty faculty members, establishing teaching residencies, leading the accreditation process and creating and implementing the Department of Jazz Studies. I am confident we will see continued momentum as she transitions into this new role of leadership at EKU.
 
Keeping the Strategic Plan’s charge of ongoing curriculum development and establishing programs to attract students – along with the Governor’s directive for an increased focus on STEM programs – the College of Arts and Sciences will be divided into two distinct colleges: the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Science. Additionally, the services and academic areas positioned in University Programs will be redistributed.  This restructuring will better focus on the needs of each respective college. I have asked Dr. Sara Zeigler to assume the role of Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and Dr. Tom Otieno to serve as Interim Dean of the College of Science. 
 
Dr. Zeigler has served EKU for 20 years and built a distinguished record of teaching, scholarship, and service with a focus on collaboration across the campus community as the current Dean of University Programs. Dr. Otieno has held a variety of teaching and administrative positions since joining EKU in 1995. As the current Associate Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, he brings notable expertise in the areas of faculty development, research and grant funding. We are fortunate that EKU has abundant internal talent and strong leaders who are up to the task of redesigning the programs and services we offer our students.
 
I firmly believe that properly positioning ourselves to succeed in the state’s performance metrics will actually help us increase the institution’s overall resources so that there are more funds to support ALL programs (both in the sciences and liberal education).  Further, we fully expect Dean Zeigler to be innovative in approaching ways to make liberal arts degrees even more marketable.
 
Additional details as to where the areas now reporting to University Programs will be housed and the specific reporting lines will be forthcoming.  Also, additional departmental consolidation – as a way to realize more efficiencies and economies of scale – are being considered.
 
Student Success and President’s Office Restructuring
The Strategic Plan mandates that the University improve student experiences by enhancing academic learning environments.  In order to align Student Success with the Strategic Plan, the Division will shift its structure to report to the Executive Vice President and Interim Provost.  This structure will improve communication between Academic Affairs and Student Success in a University environment where each greatly affects the other, and allow flexibility as enrollment management and performance-based funding become increasingly intertwined. 
 
Additionally, the Strategic Plan requires a renewed focus on student life and career services.  To meet this aim, Student Success will identify additional measures to streamline efficiency and foster increased student life programming and support services for our students.
 
There will also be a staff adjustment in the President’s Office. Hal Boyd, who serves as Special Assistant to the President, recently informed me that he has accepted a position as the opinion editor and weekly columnist for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah. Upon Hal's departure in June, I will no longer staff this position. 
 
We have an excellent team in place to lead EKU forward with a renewed focus on our mission. I personally would like to thank all who have accepted the challenge. We will continue to communicate any new developments. Thank you for your continued service.
 
Kind regards,
 
Mike Benson

Budget Update - April 12, 2016

Dear Campus:
 
As you have read and seen in the media, calmer heads seemed to prevail in Frankfort yesterday as House and Senate leadership agreed to go back to the budget negotiating table.  In order to accommodate the renewed budget negotiations, lawmakers have officially moved the last day of session to Friday, April 15.  This is the absolute final day of the 2016 Regular Session due to the fact that the Kentucky State Constitution dictates that the legislature must adjourn sine die (Latin for “without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing” meaning a special session must be called by the Governor, if at all) by April 15.
 
The budget conferees are slated to convene today at 1 p.m., and are positioned to meet all day Wednesday – as needed.  The goal would be to finish by midnight Wednesday in order to give staff 24-36 hours to prepare the budget document  for a vote on Friday.  All this hinges on whether or not an agreement can be reached.
 
When the budget conferees meet again today it is expected they will pick back up where they left off working through the 164 page “differences document,” whereby lawmakers go through the discrepancies in the two versions of the budget one item at a time.  They were less than half way through resolving differences Sunday evening when the meetings were abruptly ended, citing an “impasse.”   
 
On Sunday night, House and Senate leaders tentatively agreed on cuts to higher education of 4.5 percent each year of the biennium.  However, there are still many issues in the budget yet to resolve, such as how much total revenue will be devoted to the pension crisis, the House’s Work Ready program for college tuition, higher education performance based funding, coal severance expenditures, the state’s two-year Road Plan, and prevailing wage on public projects.
 
As always, we will continue to keep everyone apprised as events unfold.  Perhaps the words placed into the mouth of Alice in Wonderland by author Lewis Carroll best describe the process through which we are all passing at present: “Curiouser and curiouser.”
 
Thanks for your continued service.
 
Mike Benson


Budget Update - April 8, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

Informal, private budget negotiations continued through the end of the week today, leaving optimism that an agreement could be reached before the end of the legislative session next week.  Key legislative leaders are expected to continue discussions this weekend in hopes of breaking the impasse over proposed funding cuts to Kentucky’s public universities and colleges, which would lead to negotiations over other aspects of the budget. 

Various “compromise” proposals have been shuttled between the House and Senate in the last few days.  The Senate and Governor have proposed cuts to higher education, using the savings from those cuts to pay down the state’s enormous $34 billion pension liabilities.  The Democratically-controlled House has said other revenues can be dedicated toward pension payments and there is no need to cut education, especially since the state experienced a budget surplus and there is no budget shortfall. 

If an agreement can be reached over higher education funding and the pension liabilities, the hope is that budget conferees could hammer out the other funding and language differences in the budget over a marathon 12-24 hour negotiating session.

Under the current legislative calendar, lawmakers would have to finish the budget work by late Sunday night in order to prepare the document for a vote on Tuesday, April 12, which is the 60th and final day the legislature.  However, the state’s constitution says in even-numbered year the Legislature can only meet for 60 working days, and that all work is to be finished by April 15.   That leaves the door open that should there be significant budget progress over the weekend or on Monday, that lawmakers could forgo gaveling in on April 12 and push the final legislative day back to Friday, April 15.  

Even if a budget agreement is reached and legislature pushes the calendar back a few days, lawmakers still will not have the ability to override any line-item vetoes that Governor Matt Bevin may choose to make in the budget because he has 10 days to make those decisions and the Legislature will have adjourned sine die.

As always, we will continue to keep the campus informed as new developments arise. 

Thank you for your continued service.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Benson


Budget Update - April 6, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

 
Late yesterday afternoon, all of the presidents of Kentucky’s universities and colleges were notified of a meeting to be held today, at the request of Matt Bevin, in Frankfort at the Governor’s Mansion.  All nine of the presidents were in attendance, along with members of House and Senate leadership and the Governor’s budget director, John Chilton.
 
After nearly 3 hours of discussion, debate, and deliberation, I am slightly more hopeful that some type of negotiated agreement might be reached by our elected officials within the next few days.  Included below is a brief summary of the latest budget debate news  from Chris Nolan, one of people with whom we work in Frankfort.  I hope it is helpful in keeping everyone up-to-date with the latest developments.
 
Budget talks resumed behind closed doors Wednesday as key legislative leaders, the Governor and university presidents met for several hours and renewed their efforts to try to break an impasse in the budget negotiations.  However, there was no apparent breakthrough in the negotiations. 
 
The key points at issue are the current year 4.5 percent budget cuts to higher education that the Governor issued by executive order last week and any potential vetoes the Governor could issue without the legislature being able to override them.  The two issues are tied together because the House Democrats are questioning why they should strike a budget agreement over any potential cuts to education if the Governor believes he has the ability to cut education at any time through executive order as he did last week. 
 
The Senate and Governor have proposed cuts to higher education and use the money to put into a fund to pay down the state’s enormous pension liabilities.  The House has said other revenues can be dedicated toward pension payments and there is no need to cut any part of education, especially since the state had a budget surplus and there is no crisis of a shortfall.  Universities, meanwhile, have become the political football in the budget negotiations.
 
Despite the impasse, Senate President Robert Stivers (R) said afterwards that “chances are good” that legislators will pass a two-year, $21 billion budget for the state before the legislative session adjourns next week.  Stivers added, “ Information is being exchanged, ideas are being discussed and there have been some very good conversations today.”
 
House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D) has been mum publicly and has made no comments on Wednesday’s negotiations.  Discussions are complicated by the fact that the last offer Senate Republicans put on the table had no higher education cuts in the current year and 4.5% cuts during the new budget biennium.  However, the Governor’s subsequent executive order cutting universities 4.5% in the current year is looked at as a step backwards by Democrats. 
 
Even if an agreement can be reached on education cuts, House and Senate leaders have yet to discuss other significant differences in the budget such as cutting funding for Planned Parenthood and suspending prevailing wage on state contracts.  Both issues are hyper partisan and have yet surface publically.
 
The deadline to get a final agreement for an April 12 vote is late Sunday.  House-Senate negotiators are expected to discuss the budget amongst their respective leadership teams tomorrow morning (Thursday) and then have more private meetings.
 
When lawmakers recessed last Friday — the 59th day of the 60-day session — budget negotiations broke off after House and Senate leaders failed to agree on cuts to higher education and money for public pension payments.  If there is no budget compromise by the current last day of the session on Tuesday, April 12, the Governor would have to call lawmakers back for a special session or preside over a partial government shutdown that would begin July 1.  Only the governor can call a special session and set its agenda.  A special session would cost taxpayers about $70,000 a day and last at least five days.  Under a partial shutdown, the governor could spend money only on statutorily or constitutionally required services and federal mandates.
 
We will continue to keep you all apprised of any new happenings. 
 
Until then, #KeepCalmAndCarryOn.
 
Thanks for your continued service.
 
Kind regards,
 
Mike Benson

Budget Update - March 31, 2016

Dear Campus Community:
 
You have undoubtedly heard by now that Governor Matt Bevin directed his Finance Secretary and Budget Director this afternoon to cut all public universities’ funding by 4.5% for the current fiscal year.  This means that the state allotment, distributed quarterly to each institution, will be reduced by that amount tomorrow morning.  This equates to approximately $3.1 million for Eastern Kentucky University.  
 
As we anticipated such a move might happen, our management team has utilized reserves and sequestered away other funds to meet this immediate reduction.  We urge every single person across campus to be extra vigilant in the coming weeks and months to be as careful as possible with state funds and be even more mindful of existing budgets. 
 
As I relayed to you earlier today, our state legislators have yet to settle on our budget from July 1, 2016, and beyond.  We continue to urge our elected officials to consider the investment in human capital which public higher education represents.  Nevertheless, the ever-burgeoning pension crisis in our state casts a long shadow across every single state agency and we fear a further cut in our ongoing appropriation is imminent. 
 
We will continue to keep you apprised of any new developments. 
 
In my office hangs a replica of posters the British government planned to use during the darkest days of World War II to buoy the spirits of the residents of London.  The simple saying on these posters has made its way into our cultural lexicon and has been modified countless ways and adorns everything from cell phone cases to t-shirts to canvas bags.  The original saying from the 1940’s, however, still packs an emotional punch and is apropos to our situation at EKU:

“Keep Calm and Carry On”

We will continue to do so and will navigate, together, the turbulent times in which we find ourselves.
 
Thanks for your continued service.
 
Go Colonels!
 
Mike Benson

Budget Update - March 31, 2016

Dear Campus:
 
If you have been paying attention to the goings on in Frankfort, this morning’s events have certainly created a unique and somewhat unprecedented scenario. 
 
House and Senate leadership met briefly just now and agreed to disagree on their budget priorities, meaning lawmakers will not pass a two-year Executive Branch budget in the 2016 regular legislative session.  With this impasse, legislators will convene on Friday as planned to pass and clean up any remaining bills still pending.
 
This stalemate leaves two choices for Republican Governor Matt Bevin: (1) call lawmakers into a special session to restart negotiations and pass a budget before the end of the fiscal year on June 30; or (2) not call a special legislative session and attempt to operate state government without a budget, funding only necessary government entities and emergency agencies only.  In this latter scenario, universities could use non-general fund dollars to operate, if they have them.  If they do not, summer sessions, and other activities could be dramatically impacted.
 
After tomorrow’s legislative session for Day 59 of the 60-day session, legislators are expected to reconvene on April 12 for a final “veto override” day in which they can consider any gubernatorial vetoes or possibly pass any remaining legislation that is still pending.
 
We will continue to monitor all developments and keep campus apprised of any new news.  All we can do at this point is to focus on our respective responsibilities, do our work, and continue to serve our EKU community and students – 89% of whom are from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  Thanks for your continued commitment to Eastern Kentucky University.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Mike Benson

Budget Update - March 25, 2016

Dear Campus Community:

The Kentucky House and Senate have each presented versions of the state budget and as one lawmaker described the variances, “the gulf between the two sides can be measured in miles.” Higher education is caught in the ebb and flow of this legislative tide and the result is tremendous uncertainty for all public institutions. 

The House version of the budget removed proposed cuts to postsecondary education, while the Senate version restored the 9% reduction in our allocations for the next fiscal year.  The latter chamber called for additional cuts with the provision of performance-based funding for public colleges and universities (25% of which could be earned back based on metrics set for each institution) to be implemented by 2017-18.

David McFaddin and I spent the day in Frankfort yesterday, meeting with legislators on both sides of the aisle, from both chambers to advocate for our state to invest in higher education and specifically EKU.  While we face unprecedented challenges for state funding as it pertains to the final budget plan, we continue to make a strategic assessment of how these potential cuts would affect our campus.  Difficult decisions still lie ahead.

We are committed to providing a quality education for our students, at a reasonable cost. We will do all we can to continue to provide the best academic experience for our students, supported by outstanding programs and enhanced facilities where we learn, work and live. As we remain committed to our primary role of teaching, the financial reality will require us to look across our institution at ways to improve efficiencies and reduce expenses.  The dialogue continues on the best ways to meet our goals within the parameters of our state allocations.  If you would like to review any of the previous presentations and materials outlining the budget projections you will find additional information at http://www.eku.edu/bip.

Like many of you, I eagerly await the resolution of the budget in Frankfort. The members of the conference committee are beginning their work again this morning, and we will continue to monitor the progress.  Together we will prepare and adapt as needed. As families do, we must respect and listen to each other’s ideas, suggestions and concerns as we approach difficult decisions which could impact all of us in different ways.

Thank you for being a vital part of the EKU community and best wishes for a great second half of the spring semester.

Yours sincerely,

Michael T. Benson

President


Open Budget Forum

View the slideshow presentation online [opens new window]
Download the presentation

A Message from President Benson: 

This week I discussed the University’s financial picture at an open budget forum. Thank you to those who were able to attend. Many of you shared thoughtful questions. If you could not be there, you can view the forum and accompanying presentation at http://www.eku.edu/bip. Our state legislators continue to work on the state budget, and we hope to have a look at the House version of the budget next week. Meanwhile, we continue to tell EKU’s story of opportunity and forward momentum.  We hit record enrollment this fall while also improving our graduation and retention rates.
 
In terms of our state funding, it is important that lawmakers and the citizens of our Commonwealth understand how invested our University is in Kentucky's future. When you look at our undergraduate enrollment, 89% of our students are Kentucky residents, a greater percentage than any other public state university. Beyond that, three out of every four EKU graduates, or 76%, are working right here in Kentucky within a year of graduation, again a state best among our peer institutions. Because we know EKU helps create a better Kentucky, we will continue to advocate for more state funding for higher education, and I hope you will join me in those efforts by also sharing your stories.
 
As we await the full budget outlook, we have adjusted spending to meet the Governor's immediate 4.5% cut to this fiscal year by utilizing current reserves, fund balances, and reductions in operating expenses. In anticipation of the next fiscal year, we continue to explore strategic methods to reduce spending and improve efficiencies at EKU.
 
I hope Spring Break will give us all a chance to relax, refresh and enjoy time with family and friends. May we return refocused on teaching, learning, and providing vital support services for our great University.
 
Have a fun and safe break; I look forward to seeing you upon your return.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Michael T. Benson
President

Update from President Benson 3/2/2016

Open Budget Forum 03/08 at 3 p.m. Brock Auditorium

Dear University Community:

As you know, we are working hard in Frankfort to tell our story and advocate on behalf of Eastern Kentucky University. I urge you to also make your voice heard within the remaining weeks of the legislative session.

Meanwhile, we continue to lobby on a daily basis, and I believe we are making headway. There appears to be support in the House to reduce the proposed cuts, and House members will release their version of the budget in the coming days.

Hopefully these updates regarding our activities at the Capitol are helpful. I’m sure many of you still have questions regarding EKU’s budget and the legislative process. OnTuesday, March 8, at 3 p.m. I will hold an open forum on the budget in Brock Auditorium.

After some informational remarks, we will do our best to answer questions. For those who cannot attend, we will post a video recording of the event online.

Thank you for everything you do to make Eastern great!

Yours sincerely,

Michael T. Benson
President


A Message from President Benson 2/19/2016

Dear University Community:

As we wrap up another week of legislative advocacy on behalf of EKU, I want to recap what happened and what might lie ahead.  There are only 60 more days left in the session and much more to do. 

For the third consecutive year, a large contingent of campus and community leaders made its way to Frankfort on Wednesday as part of our unique-to-EKU “Colonels at the Capitol” event.  You can watch a recap of the day here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EOIh_s3vKA

It was heartening to see how strongly so many feel about the value of higher education in general, and Eastern Kentucky University in particular. Numerous community friends and advocates took an entire day out of their busy schedules to make their voices heard.  We spoke with enough people in Frankfort to know that the governor and legislators have taken notice of our efforts. Many lawmakers rave about the unmatched level of interest and involvement they see from our campus community and across Madison County. A standing-room-only crowd leaves a lasting impression.

During the course of our meetings and presentations on Wednesday, I was proud of all the state legislators – many EKU alumni themselves – who found time to share their own perspectives and patiently hear our concerns about the recently proposed state budget. We are indeed blessed with many friends and advocates in the General Assembly from both political parties.

At all times the tone was civil and respectful. It serves no purpose to demonize those with whom we might disagree.  

I was especially proud of our Student Government Association president, Katie Scott, who so eloquently reminds us that, first and foremost, what we do at Eastern is about the students and their success. We are encouraged that the EKU Student Senate voted overwhelmingly to oppose Senate Bill 75, which would freeze tuition for four years at Kentucky’s colleges and universities. I attended the hearing of the Senate Education Committee Thursday with Katie and David McFaddin and the measure failed to get a motion for a vote in Committee.  Students recognize that severe cuts in state appropriations coupled with a four-year tuition freeze could seriously damage the quality, or even availability, of academic programs and student services. I commend the Senators for taking a long-term view.

One of the highlights of Wednesday’s events in Frankfort was when EKU was recognized on the floor of both the House and Senate by, respectively, Speaker Stumbo and President Stivers (both of whom addressed our group during our morning meetings).  Many commented to me how impressed they were that our campus and community came together in such a positive show of unity and resolve. We should all be encouraged by such support.

With that said, the budget debate is far from over and there is much more to do. As Board of Regents Chair Craig Turner noted, the process takes “perseverance, patience and, most importantly, a message.”  Thursday morning, I presented on behalf of EKU to the House Budget Review Subcommittee.  A link to the presentation is here:

http://president.eku.edu/sites/president.eku.edu/files/files/Presentations/EKU%20Budget%20Presentation%20Feb%202016.pdf

EKU’s message is one of momentum: record enrollments, best-prepared freshman class ever, all-time high graduation and retention rates, and campus revitalization. It is no accident we are attracting more of the best-and-brightest students. In addition, our message is one of opportunity and the future: Approximately 800 in this year’s freshman class are first-generation college students. We must never turn our backs on their dreams by pricing them out of a college education and choking off access.

Finally, our message is that an investment in Eastern Kentucky University is an investment in Kentucky. Nearly 89 percent of EKU undergraduates are Kentucky residents, the highest of all the four-year, public universities in the Commonwealth. Seventy-six percent of EKU degree holders are employed in Kentucky after graduation, again the highest percentage among the state comprehensives. Many of these graduates serve in positions vital to any community’s quality of life: teachers, nurses, occupational therapists, environmental health professionals, police officers and other first responders, security personnel, social workers, etc.

Last week, you were given the opportunity to advocate for EKU and higher education. Again, I encourage you to contact your local legislators by whatever method you wish. They have repeatedly told us they want to hear from you. So share your personal story. Faculty, you can talk about why we teach our students to think critically and creatively and communicate effectively – skills that transfer to any profession, including those fields that do not even exist today. Staff, you can tell story after story about apprehensive young people who come to us from disadvantaged backgrounds and leave here confident graduates, soon to be leaders in their professions and communities. And, students, who better to tell that story than you? Many of you could speak eloquently to the impact Eastern has had on your life and the intrinsic value of a broad education.  A link to the form to submit to your respective legislators can be found here:

http://gov.eku.edu/2016-budget-advocacy

This institution has served Kentucky, in one form or another, since 1874, and we will survive this latest challenge. Eastern was established and sustained through the years by men and women of great courage, resolve, and vision. To this day, it is you who constitute our greatest resource.

Thank you for all you have done and will do to make Eastern great. As we make our voices heard, together we can make a positive difference for our University and Commonwealth and ensure a brighter future for all Kentuckians.

Go Colonels! 

Michael T. Benson

President


A Message from President Benson 2/11/2016

Dear Campus:

Given all that is happening in Frankfort and the rumors swirling about on the latest goings-on with our state budget, I wanted to provide a quick update on what we currently know.  Although there is still much uncertainty, we can act in a proactive and positive manner which will serve us well as we navigate the times ahead.  I intend to send out these campus updates on a regular basis as the session continues forward and this process unfolds.

By executive order, Governor Bevin has directed all higher education institutions to take a 4.5% cut in the current fiscal year.  This amounts to $3.1 million for EKU.  We will meet these cuts through utilizing current reserves, fund balances, and reductions in operating expenses. 

To this end, we have asked all cognizant vice presidents, deans, and directors to be very, very careful with the rest of their budgets for this current fiscal year.  

Strategic cost saving measures can go a long way. For example, we have decided to forego a University-wide Commencement ceremony on Thursday night, May 12th, so that we can have each college do their own ceremony on Friday and Saturday.  We have also suspended our EKU branding initiative for now.  I would encourage each budget manager to examine carefully his/her own respective budgets for areas where savings can be realized.

One of my favorite Viktor Frankl quotes speaks to our ability as human beings to determine precisely how we react to what happens to us.  “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” 

Eastern Kentucky University was founded by people who had vision, tenacity, and steel in their backbones.  We trace our roots to 1874 and, given our rich and inspiring history, this institution will be here long after our respective tenures.  We would do well to remember the example of these founders and those who followed.  Difficult times have been encountered and survived by those who preceded us.  We can and will do the same.

Thanks for your continued supportWhat the Governor presented will certainly pose challenges to us, both in the short and long term.  Our acute and most pressing task is to carve 4.5% out of our current budget mid-year in this fiscal cycle.  Moving forward, we must carve out 9% out of our budget over the next 30 months.  This 9% is off our total baseline as currently appropriated; our annual state appropriation is approximately $68 million.  By 2020 ALL of our state appropriation will be subject to performance funding metrics, and these standards will be developed over the next several months and applied over the next two biennia. 

 
While the Governor chose to exempt several state agencies from the $650 million in reductions, unfortunately higher education was not one of them.  Governor Bevin outlined a whole host of agencies and initiatives to fund and all of them are commendable (e.g., increased pay for police officers and other public safety personnel, reduction in caseloads for social workers, additional resources for prosecutors, and no cuts to Medicaid, etc.). We applaud him for protecting the most vulnerable in our population.  
A proposed 9.0% reduction in 2016-17, applied to the enacted 2015-16 net General Fund base. If the budget is approved as proposed, this would result in a $6.1 million reduction forWhat's Next?

EKU will continue educating students and improving campus. Although the cuts and incentive funding plans for the coming years is a fluid situation, we will update this page as information becomes available to us.


Budget Update - July 5, 2016

Dear Campus Colleagues:
 
We face a time at Eastern Kentucky University when every area of our organization is making individual budget adjustments that will collectively strengthen our University and fulfill the mission to serve our students. While we recognize each department, area or unit has unique needs and challenges, in the spirit of our state motto – “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” – these decisions require a commitment to collaboration.
 
The University Budget Review Committee, convened by President Benson is a joint body formed of subcommittees representing faculty, staff and student leadership. The University Budget Review Committee members include:
 
Academic Subcommittee
    
Staff/Student Subcommittee
Senior VP for Academics & Provost
    
Executive Vice President & University Counsel
Academic Deans
    
University Vice Presidents
Faculty Regent
    
Director for Athletics
Faculty Senate Chair
    
Staff Regent
Chair of Chairs Association
    
Staff Council Chair
SGA President
    
SGA Vice President
 
The full committee has been meeting monthly since early May and the subcommittees meet regularly between joint meetings to identify ways to improve efficiencies within our institution.
 
A number of items have been identified for discussion, including a review of our current benefit costs and academic program offerings. Work is underway with Human Resources and the Office of Finance & Administration to compare health care plans and costs with other Kentucky comprehensive universities. Evaluating our coverage options related to our peer institutions is the first step in assessing our current benefit plans.
 
You have likely heard discussion of the Academic Program Review process, and we remind you the Board of Regents has asked that an in-depth review of programs be conducted with the findings presented to the Board in November. More details on the Committee’s review and recommendations will be shared with the Council on Academic Affairs and the Faculty Senate when all faculty return in August.
 
The Committee has also discussed measures already approved by the Board, including a total of more than $2.7 million in University savings from reductions and reorganization of positions and an estimated $1.2 million in savings from reduced vacation accrual.  There has been much discussion around athletics, and we announced a few weeks ago that an immediate reduction of $200,000 was being taken from the scholarship budget.  This week the Department of Athletics announced an additional $200,000 reduction from four recently-eliminated staff positions within this department.  We have also announced the closing of our Somerset campus. The committee continues its work to identify additional savings for the University, and will share more information on these and other recommendations as the work progresses.
 
Strengthened by our momentum and growth, we are prepared to face the opportunities that lie ahead in the coming year. We have made great strides in recruitment and retention. We have nationally recognized programs, faculty and staff. We are in the midst of the first campus revitalization in half a century that includes new residence halls, a parking garage and dining facility all made possible by private partnerships.  It is our expectation that the current financial concerns will not overshadow these accomplishments nor deter our aspirations for this great University. We face challenges together, and we will also celebrate our success as one EKU family. As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
 
We hope you are enjoying your summer and look forward to seeing everyone back on campus in August.
 
Sincerely,
 
The University Budget Review Committee

 

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