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The Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents rewarded President Michael Benson on April 27 with a new contract that would extend his presidency to 2020.

The contract continues the same salary, terms and conditions that Benson received when he was given a four-year contract upon accepting the EKU post in 2013.

“We’re confident in our president,” said Board member Janet Craig. “We believe in our president, and we believe our president is the right one to lead us in these times.”

Also at its regularly scheduled meeting, the Board approved a number of cost-saving and cost-avoidance measures that will be taken in the near future to enhance efficiency and save the University from $1 million to $1.5 million. A series of actions include adjusting University policies and reducing costs of business expenses, employee tuition waivers and vacation accruals. Benson also announced several committees representing a cross-section of faculty and staff to begin work immediately on assessing workload efficiencies, employee benefits and additional savings opportunities. 

The Board also approved a tuition increase of 5 percent for resident undergraduate students for 2016-17, slightly under the cap of 5.3 percent set by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. The increase amounts to an additional $418 per student per year.

Given expected enrollment levels, the tuition increase is expected to produce approximately $3.7 million in revenue for the University. EKU is facing a 4.5 percent ($3.1 million) cut in state appropriations each of the next two years, plus a $2.7 million increase in retirement costs, a $1.5 million increase in fixed and unavoidable costs, and unknown budgetary implications relative to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

The Regents also approved an increase in residence hall costs of 3.8 to 5.4 percent, varying from hall to hall.

Tuition and fees at Model Laboratory School will remain unchanged.

Board Chair Craig Turner vowed that EKU students “will remain our primary focus. We’re not going to compromise our academic standards, and our faculty and staff are our greatest asset. There may be some short-term pain, but it’s for long-term success. We’ll get there. There are a lot of smart people in this room, and a lot of smart people on this campus.”

Noting the challenges that budget cuts bring, Benson gladly noted the significant increase in private support the past two years – the highest two-year giving total in University history. “We continue to harvest some of the seed planting we’ve done,” he said.

In other business, the Board:

·         welcomed new Faculty Regent Dr. Richard Day.

·         approved a resolution commending the service of outgoing Faculty Regent Dr. Amy Thieme.

·         heard from State Rep. Rita Smart, who challenged the Board “to use the University to reach out and solve the problems of the Commonwealth.”

·         heard reports from Turner, Benson, Day, Faculty Senate Chair Dr. Shirley O’Brien and Staff Council Chair Ann Cotton.

The Board agreed that it will hold a special-called meeting on May 25 to continue budget discussions. The Board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is June 20. Another special meeting will be scheduled before the fall term begins.