Legislation to help financially-troubled Kentucky State University passed the General Assembly on Wednesday after adding additional funding,as well as more oversight of operations of the Frankfort school.
House Bill 250, sponsored by Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, and passed by the House Feb. 17, originally provided a $23 million no-interest loan to be repaid over the next several years so the school does not finish the current fiscal year in the red, but the version contained in a Senate Committee Substitute makes numerous changes.
But changes made in the Senate Education Committee appropriates that money to the Council for Postsecondary Education, with KSU making requests and providing documentation as that money is needed. There is an additional $15 million above that appropriated amount: $5 million for the fiscal year starting in July and another $10 million in the second year of the budget that would be available.
It also earmarks another $1.5 million to the CPE for expenses related to the oversight of KSU.
“It is so vitally important that we get this right,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Givens, R-Greensburg, who presented the bill on the Senate floor. “That we get this right for the Commonwealth, for our postsecondary institutions, and for our future.”
Givens pointed out the bill goes along with Senate Bill 265, which he sponsored, and directs Gov. Andy Beshear to appoint eight new members of the KSU Board of Regents, while not affecting the student staff, and faculty regents. That has been signed into law, and the Governor is to make those appointments so the Senate can confirm them before they adjourn on April 14.
Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said, “I feel we have been rewarding bad behavior, but we need to give it another chance, and I vote ‘aye.’ Let’s hope that K-State can show us better results for the taxpayers who invest in it on an annual basis.”
Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, said he supports the provision that requires the CPE to contract with an outside party to provide oversight. “I think it’s important to have an independent third party who can report annually and provide recommendations. That is going to be helpful as we make Kentucky State University a gem on the hill.”
Acting President Clara Ross Stamps, in a statement, explained that the university was aware of the lawmaker’s concerns about the school.
“Kentucky State University recognizes the concerns of the state legislature and supports its efforts, as well as efforts by the governor and the Council on Postsecondary Education,” Ross said. “Ultimately, we all share the same objective – ensuring KSU remains a vibrant university providing its diverse students with opportunities to reach their aspirational goals.
The measure passed the Senate 36-0 and the House concurred later Wednesday night to the changes.