KSU could lose $500,000

Ben Wolford

Even though primary subsidies to universities were spared from the state budget cuts announced Wednesday, Kent State could still lose $500,000 over the next year.

Yank Heisler, interim vice president for finance and administration, said that number is based on a very early analysis of Ohio’s $540 million budget adjustment.

Gov. Ted Strickland announced 4.75 percent cuts to state agencies across the board, but exempted Ohio Board of Regents line items for the Ohio College Opportunity Grant, Ohio Instructional Grant, State Share of Instruction and capital component.

“Gov. Strickland and our elected leaders continue their dedication to the crucial role that higher education plays in Ohio’s future,” President Lester Lefton said. “While the economic cycles are going to continue to fluctuate, the health of this state’s economy rests with the quality of higher education.

The Board of Regents will spend $1.8 billion in fiscal year 2009 on SSI, a subsidy designed to cover some of the general expenses of a college campus.

In 2007-2008, Kent State received $87 million from SSI allocations, which covered about 20 percent of the university’s operating budget.

“The fact that they’re holding our operational funds and the student financial aid from any cuts is wonderful,” said Pat Myers, director of government relations. “Everyone is very much relieved.”

But not all Board of Regents line items are safe from cuts.

Larger appropriations not exempted include the Success Challenge and Access Challenge. The Success Challenge initiative aids universities in helping students at main campuses pursue to a timely graduation. The Access Challenge reduces costs to students enrolled at regional campuses.

Heisler guessed that five or six other parts of the budget will make up the rest of the estimated half-million dollar loss at Kent State.

“There are a bunch of areas that (the state) funds, not just the overall funding that we look at when we say that the SSI number was held steady,” he said. “We’ve got all these other areas that have a little bit of impact.”

And none of that takes into account cuts outside of the Board of Regents budget, but that could also affect Kent State. Slower state transportation funding, for example, might delay changes to Summit Street, a project in the works.

“Who knows what the longer-term impact’s going to be for the shortfalls they’re experiencing now,” Heisler said. “The best guess – and you can make it as easily as I can – is that we’re likely to add some risk to those 3, 5, 7 or 10-year capital plans.”

Board of Regents items weren’t the only ones unharmed by cuts. Strickland exempted others including Medicaid and Ohio Department of Education line items such as pupil transportation, gifted pupil program and special education enhancements.

This recent budget adjustment adds to $733 million budget adjustments announced in January.

“We’re going to take a little hit, but it’s not going to cripple us,” Lefton said. “I want to thank the governor and thank our elected officials for holding higher education largely harmless.”

Contact administration reporter Ben Wolford at [email protected].