Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY


January 31, 2006

WKU president disputes Fletcher's call for more accountability

Ransdell said quality of education is suffering

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Council on Postsecondary Education, lawmakers, and Gov. Ernie Fletcher say universities must be more accountable for the money they get from the state.

That was part of the message CPE President Dr. Tom Layzell and Fletcher delivered Tuesday as Fletcher again called for the legislature to approve pulling the state out of the Master Settlement Agreement with major tobacco companies and replacing the approximately $110 million from the settlement with a $4 per carton tax.

That call for more accountability clearly frustrates Gary Ransdell, who is the president of Western Kentucky University.

“I don’t know how to be any more accountable,” Ransdell said. “We’ve laid out the numbers for them. Enrollment growth, economic development, retention rates, research, graduation rates.”

The CPE Monday established parameters under which universities may increase tuition next year, ranging from 8 percent to as much as 13.8 percent at comprehensive universities like Western and as much as 15 percent at the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville. It could be at the low range if the legislature appropriates more money than Fletcher has proposed.

But House Appropriations and Revenue Chairman Harry Moberly said “it’s a tight budget situation,” and while he expects the legislature to find more money than Fletcher has recommended for higher education, it isn’t likely to find as much as university presidents are seeking.

Fletcher said Tuesday he’d like to add another $76 million over the next two years, but he can do that only if the state withdraws from the Master Settlement Agreement with major tobacco companies. Some lawmakers are reluctant to do that, fearing the tobacco companies will sue and suspend the payments they’re now making, leaving the state with nothing.

Ransdell said Western has taken cuts of $8 million between 2000 and 2005 and has no choice but to increase tuition. Higher education costs less in Kentucky than the national average and less than all surrounding states except West Virginia, he and Layzell said.

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