NKU interim president says escalating pension contributions have created the biggest financial crisis for university

10/30/2017 02:54 PM

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS – Northern Kentucky University Interim President Gerard St. Amand says the biggest financial burden that NKU faces today is the growing pension crisis and he’s thankful that Gov. Matt Bevin and House and Senate leaders are taking on the issue.

St. Amand, who was a law professor at Northern Kentucky before being named the interim president in May after the departure of Geoffrey Mearns, says the growing costs for NKU related to pensions works essentially as a budget cut for the university.

“If you go back 8 years ago, our pension contribution into KERS for employees was $2.6 million to our budget,” St. Amand said. “This year, that contribution is $18.3 million. That’s over $15 million more without any additional funding from the state for that. Just about a month back, the pension system informed us that next year, in advance of any kind of pension reform that those $18.3 million would become $31 million.”

St. Amand also praised efforts of the governor and General Assembly to fix the funding discrepancy in which NKU was the least funded per student of any of the state’s colleges and universities.

“Within this administration, starting first with our Council on Postsecondary Education, they acknowledged, recognized and defined the extent of that under funding, and defined it at $10.7 million,” St. Amand said. “The great news was that for the first time, the governor not only acknowledged the extent of that under funding, but actually did something about it, and so for the first time, the governor put into his budget the entire $10.7 million for new state appropriations for NKU.”

St. Amand heard Gov. Matt Bevin’s call for universities to only offer degrees that graduate students who are able to fill higher paying and in-demand jobs.

St. Amand believes that NKU does that for their students, regardless of their major.

“The fact is if you take a look at all of our academic programs, built into every one of those programs, is our general education curriculum, and that curriculum is designed to build some of those fundamental skills that are important, regardless of what kind of work you go into,” St. Amand said. “You know, strong writing skills, oral communication skills, analytical and critical thinking, the ability to learn how to learn, all of those things are the kind of skill sets that you build that employers value.”

One thing that St. Amand says that has helped the university immensely is the men’s basketball teams run during the 2016-17 season which saw them win the Horizon League tournament title and earn their first ever berth in the NCAA Division I tournament.

“The people who were season ticket holders, 90 percent of those people increased their annual fund contributions,” St. Armand said. “We had about a 50 percent increase of people who made contributions as part of the annual fund who hadn’t made them before that we’re tied to men’s basketball and athletics.”

The 68-year- old St. Amand is not interested in being considered for the job full time.He believes that NKU needs a younger president to have vision and deal with the many challenges ahead.

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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