Kentucky State Univ. Wants More Money But Lawmakers Want Answers on 15.5 Percent Grad Rate

Lawmakers will soon discuss funding for Kentucky State University, a historic but debt-ridden campus.

Senate President Pro Tem David Givens told the Associated Press that there are concerns within the caucus about continuing to fund "an institution that hasn't taken care of itself."

KSU, a historically Black university located in Frankfort, is currently in a transition period following its former president, M. Christopher Brown, stepping down in July amid finance concerns and lawsuits alleging campus officials' misconduct.

Also, according to statistics from Kentucky's Council on Postsecondary Education, KSU has a four-year graduation rate of 15.5 percent and a six-year rate of 30.3 percent. Senate President Robert Stivers said he was worried the low rate was "selling a false hope" to prospective students.

The school's fate will be decided when the state's Republican-dominated legislature creates the budget next year. The 2022 session begins in January. Givens said that going into the session, there is no "preordained answer" to KSU's problems.

"We are very, very attuned to the KSU concerns," Givens said. "We also start with great appreciation for the role that KSU plays in educating our young people. A historically Black college is a vital, vital part in our fabric of post-secondary education in Kentucky."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

graduation cap
Kentucky lawmakers will decide how much funding to give Kentucky State University, showing concerns over the historic university's low graduation rates. Here, a black graduation cap.

The school has high-ranking supporters, including Governor Andy Beshear. The state's Democratic governor recently reaffirmed his commitment to KSU, saying it "must be put on a path to stability."

KSU said in a statement late Monday that it looks forward to working with legislators to "achieve the best outcome possible to ensure KSU is viable and thriving for another 135 years."

"Kentucky State University is committed to doing what is necessary to continue its long legacy of providing access to education and advancing the Commonwealth of Kentucky," the school said.

The university has said it's taken steps to stabilize its finances, and a top KSU executive gave lawmakers an update at a budget hearing in September.

In recent state budget requests for the coming two years, Kentucky's Council on Postsecondary Education included $23 million in special appropriations for the current fiscal year to cover KSU's budget shortfall. The council is the state's coordinating agency for higher education.

KSU was placed under state oversight after its financial woes emerged. The postsecondary education council found that poor management by KSU leadership in recent years resulted in significant financial losses, said Beshear, who ordered the review.

Stivers, the Senate's top leader, on Monday pointed to one key standard that Kentucky State will be expected to achieve as part of any potential solution.

"Whatever happens, if there is a path forward, they're going to have to develop a way to compete" with other state universities by significantly increasing KSU's graduation rate, he said.

Stivers and Givens spoke during a gathering of GOP Senate leaders in Bowling Green ahead of an annual retreat by Republican senators. They are planning to discuss issues pending in the next regular legislative session.

Givens told reporters to "stay tuned" for the legislature's ultimate answer to what he called the apparent "significant mismanagement" of state funds at the Frankfort campus. Whatever the outcome, it won't be business as usual at KSU, he said.

"Whatever resolution we come to will have significant impact on KSU going forward," he said. "And it will not continue in the model that we've seen...for the last few years."