By Cassondra Kirby

The Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents convened for its regular meeting June 21 approving a $198 million budget for the 2003-2004 academic year and a strategic plan that will serve as a guide to the university for the next three years.The adopted budget, which was constructed from guidelines approved at the April 25 board meeting, is larger than last year’s $152 million budget, according to Ken Johnston, vice president for financial affairs at Eastern. This year’s budget includes restricted grants and contracts which were not reflected in previous budgets, Johnston said. Not including the anticipated grants and contracts, according to Johnston, has caused the school problems when trying to compare its budget with actual total financial results.

“We would have a huge difference,” Johnston explained.

He said not reflecting the amount also created problems when Eastern wanted to compare its budget with other institutions, which would include estimates that Eastern previously left out.

“So, what we have done this time is to include an estimate to what historically we have received in restrictive contracts and grants and that’s why you are seeing a change in that number,” Johnston told the board.

According to Johnston, the operating portion of the budget is also up at $134.5 million from last year’s $127 million. The primary increase comes from Eastern’s increase in its tuition and fees, he said.

Despite threats of funding cuts and tight fiscal times, Eastern President Joanne Glasser said she is pleased with the budget.

“I am extremely proud in what we have been able to accomplish in this budget,” Glasser told the Board. “Given the possible financial constraints we could have faced this year, I am delighted to present you with such an aggressive and progressive budget for the operation of this institution.”

Glasser said she also is pleased with the inclusion of additional money in the budget to address special salary needs for faculty and staff members including $10,000 for faculty salary adjustments and $200,000 for staff salary adjustments

Along with faculty and staff salary adjustments, Glasser highlighted some of the major points of the budget at the board meeting including a 3-percent across the board employee salary adjustment and a $1.4 million increase in the contingency fund, bringing the total to $2.5 million. She also said the budget includes fund pools created for specific areas including $600,000 for academic affairs, $150,000 for student affairs, $100,000 for faculty diversity issues and $50,000 for retention concerns.

The 2003-04 budget reflects no additional tuition increase beyond the 9.5 percent increase the Regents approved last year for 2003-04, according to Glasser.

“This budget, I am pleased to say, does not place any further financial burden on the backs of our students as it reflects no additional tuition increase beyond what the Board of Regents approved last year,” Glasser said. “As a result, EKU’s tuition and residence hall rates will continue to be among the lowest and most affordable in Kentucky. This clearly demonstrates Eastern’s commitment to students as we make a college education affordable, convenient, flexible and first-rate.”

The tuition cost for students are currently posted at $1,399 per semester for undergraduates who reside in Kentucky, an increase of $120. Non-resident undergraduates will pay $4,195, an increase of $360 per semester. Graduate students have seen similar increases.

Along with tuition, residence hall rental rates also will increase approximately $80 per semester for double occupancy rooms and approximately $125 for single occupancy rooms.

According to Glasser, this budget was made possible by the legislature and Gov. Paul Patton who gave priority to higher education in the adoption of the state budget in April. She also mentioned the proactive manner in which Eastern identified money to be reallocated to priority needs.

The Board also approved a strategic plan that, according to Glasser, will serve as a roadmap to the development of college, departmental and other operational units on campus.

“All of our energy and efforts will be focused on achieving the vision of this strategic plan, and I quote from it, ‘Eastern Kentucky University will be the leading comprehensive university in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, earning national distinction, where students come first,'” Glasser said.

Some of the changes the plan calls for, according to Glasser, include moving the First Year Experience Programs, orientation, tutoring and mentoring from Academic Affairs to Student Affairs and changing the point of contact for ARAMARK, Eastern’s dinning service contractor, from Administrative Affairs to Student Affairs.

“Dinning services is first and foremost a student service and there will be benefits to having our housing and dinning operations within the same part of the organization,” Glasser explained.

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 6.