UNA recommended for more funding

UNA recommended for more funding

The University of North Alabama received recommendations from Alabama Continuation of Higher Education and Governor Kay Ivey’s budget for an increase in funding.

“Work on higher education budget for FY20 is just now beginning in earnest,” said UNA President Kenneth Kitts.

ACHE released its recommendations on Feb. 5, followed by the release of Ivey’s budget recommendations. Both recommended UNA for an 8.5% increase. This would increase UNA’s annual state appropriation by $2.5 million, according to Kitts.

“Our recommended percentage increase is the second highest of all Alabama senior institutions and compares very favorably with the average 5.9% increase for that group,” Kitts said. “However, these are only recommendations.”

Governor Ivey’s budget recommendation for Fiscal Year 19 proposed an increase of 3.48% in the base appropriation for all public universities in Alabama.

The respective Senate and House committees dealing with the Education Trust Fund allocations will begin to take up these funding decisions, and it is very likely that additional changes will occur for the next fiscal year, according to Kitts.

“We are working very hard to ensure that any changes better our position,” Kitts said. “It is important to remember that UNA’s deficit is staggering as measured by per-FTE funding: $11 million to $25 million per year depending on how the numbers are crunched.”

UNA’s total funding per full-time student equivalent is ranked 12 out of the 14 public colleges in Alabama and last when in comparison to similarly sized institutions, according to una.edu

“This deficit developed over a century and will not be corrected in one budgetary cycle, but we need to make significant progress this year and in subsequent years to begin closing the gap,” Kitts said.

Without increased funding for UNA, the university could see another increase in tuition.

In 2016, members of the University of North Alabama Board of Trustees proposed a resolution that called for a 3.9% tuition increase in 2016-17 due to a lack of state funding, amongst other factors, according to una.edu.

“Increasing tuition is always the last option,” said Kitts. “But without proper state funding, we have to balance the need to limit increases with the need to continue to support top-notch faculty and provide exceptional academic programs and services.”

The university is $25 million underfunded each year, according to Kitts.

“We are very underfunded,” said Student Government member and senior Blake Polson. “We have to expose this to the community and make it known.”

Project 208 revolves around pulling the information together, getting it in the right hands and organizing a strategic and long-term effort to improve UNA’s position in future funding decisions, according to una.edu.

“Accordingly, Project 208 must remain a top priority for all those who care about the future of the University of North Alabama,” Kitts said.

UNA closed down resources, such as the university swimming pool, due to a lack of funding for repairs.

“Project 208 is my brainchild,” Kitts said. “At heart, Project 208 is about the fairness in funding we need to continue to do great things at UNA.”

The 2019 Alabama Legislative session began March 5 and UNA had alumni representation on the State Government Committee, Insurance Committee and the House Ways and Means Education Committee.

“Our local representatives and senators have been great to help UNA,” Kitts said. “They are dialed into Project 208 and doing everything in their power to help us.”