Lee Todd says UK will try to find money for faculty raises and hold down tuition

01/24/2011 09:23 PM

University of Kentucky faculty and staff “cannot go much longer” without raises even if the state’s support slips back toward 2001 levels, UK President Lee T. Todd, Jr. said.

At the same the university will seek to avoid steep tuition increases next year, Todd said on Monday’s edition of Pure Politics. Tuition went up 6% between last academic year and the 2010-11 year.

As for layoffs, Todd says he does not “foresee that happening.” (See Part 3 of the interview below for the discussion of salaries, faculty-student ratios and tuition)

Todd, who announced last fall that he would step down June 30, 2011, expressed his disappointment that the state legislature has had to roll back funding increases for public universities almost to 2001-levels.

He said he understands most states are dealing with that. “But not every state asked their research university to be a Top 20,” he said. “So in my case, I keep saying, ‘But we need more.’”

The top legislative goal for Todd, UK and public universities is to convince the legislature to allow them to sell bonds without the General Assembly’s approval for buildings that will be paid for with designated revenue, such as residence and dining halls.

Todd first talked about his goals for the remainder of his tenure as UK’s president:

UK and other public universities are finding ways to replace public funds. For instance, the College of Arts and Sciences launched 20 new courses online that brought in $2 million in extra revenue, Todd said.

But to meet the legislature’s goal of UK being a Top 20 research institution in the nation, the state needs to stop treading water with the amount it spends on higher education, Todd said.

One of the frustrations, he added, is that millions of dollars that could be going toward schools and universities is having to be diverted to the programs with ballooning budgets such as Medicaid and the prison system.

Todd said he’s hopeful the legislature will embrace suggestions made by a task force of seven officials who have studied ways to improve Kentucky’s corrections systems with help from the Pew Center on the States. The recommendations are aimed at making the system more efficient and fair.

“People say we can’t be soft on crime,” he said. “But as a result, we’re being soft on education. When you increase your budget $300 million for prisons and you can’t increase your education budget, something’s wrong.”

Todd also answered questions about the salary the UK board of trustees set for him and, thus, his successor.

In Part 3 of the interview, Todd discussed faculty and staff salaries and the affordability of higher education. And he answered questions about the controversial decision in October 2009 to allow donors to pay for a new dorm for many UK athletes and rename it the Wildcat Coal Lodge.

- Ryan Alessi

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