Bill would direct governor to remove, replace current regents at troubled Kentucky university

Published 5:28 am Thursday, March 3, 2022

Legislation that would direct Gov. Andy Beshear to replace the Board of Regents at financially-troubled Kentucky State University, has been introduced in the state Senate.

Senate Bill 265, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem David Givens, R-Greensburg, would require the governor to remove the current members and replace them by April 1. This would affect the eight gubernatorial appointments, not the three elected student, staff and faculty regents.

Givens said this is a necessary in righting the ship at the Frankfort school.

“This is the first step in the process. The issue is vital to the state and to our postsecondary portfolio of opportunities for students,” he explained. “We must get it right, and this is where we have chosen to start.”

He said the timeline is tight, so that the Senate has the opportunity to confirm the appointments, while lawmakers are still in session.

“We need a complete turn-around at that institution,” Givens stated. “And this is a big part of that turn-around process. Overhaul is the goal.”

The Kentucky House voted last month to shore up Kentucky State University’s finances with a $23 million appropriation coupled with strict oversight measures for the struggling school. Under that legislation, House Bill 250, KSU leaders would provide periodic updates to lawmakers in coming years on the progress of carrying out that improvement plan. And by late 2025, the Council on Postsecondary Education would provide lawmakers a three-year performance analysis of KSU.

The House bill, sponsored by Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, also carries a provision that would make the loan forgivable, if a future General Assembly agrees.

Givens said HB 250 is another part of the process.

“We certainly intend to continue working on the legislation that came over from the House, and that will be part of what I think our complete package looks like,” he added.

KSU announced last summer that it faced a budget shortfall with a stack of unpaid bills and other debts, a ballooning payroll, and several years of poorly managed spending that outpaced revenue.

Gov. Andy Beshear placed the university under state oversight following the sudden resignation of the school’s president, Dr. M. Christopher Brown, last summer. The school is currently searching for a permanent president.

KSU is also looking for ways to cut about $7 million from its budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Kentucky State’s supporters have pointed to positive trends on the campus, including rising student retention and graduation rates. They urged lawmakers to think about the school’s current and future students when deciding on the appropriation.

One of those supporters is Rep. Derrick Graham, R-Frankfort, who is a KSU alum and in whose district the school is located.

Graham said the students now at Kentucky State, “want what was given to me and to others before me on campus — a brighter future.”

Givens says he expects SB 265 to be assigned to the Senate Education Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville.