Kentucky State University tries to recover from financial mess

Nov 17, 2021

Credit J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky State University will run out of money in March without assistance from the legislature, according to state higher education officials.

The historically Black university in Frankfort has struggled financially for years, but recent review by the Council on Postsecondary Education showed that KSU’s spending far outpaced its revenues since 2019.

The university has been under state oversight since its former president, M. Christopher Brown, resigned amid growing concerns about KSU’s financial health and several lawsuits accusing officials of misconduct.

Clara Stamps, KSU’s acting president, said the university is getting back on track and trying to create a culture that encourages accountability.

“As leaders of the institution, we must be held accountable for our actions. Our non-actions, our inactions, we won’t make excuses. We will get back to the basics,” Stamps said.

“As institutional leaders, if you want to remain here at Kentucky State University, then you will follow institutional policies, processes and procedures,” she continued.

According to the Council on Postsecondary Education’s review, the university’s finances have been in disarray: vendors weren’t getting paid, money was improperly being withdrawn from the school’s endowment and officials were “consistently” missing auditing deadlines.

CPE attorney Travis Powell said officials weren’t reporting financial information to the school’s board in a timely manner.

“The information I think the board was getting, it was a combination of delayed to some degree, confusing, and I won’t necessarily say that was intentional,” Powell said. “From what I’ve seen it was just disorganization.”

CPE President Aaron Thompson, who served as interim president of KSU from 2016 until 2017, said state officials were unaware of how bad KSU’s financial situation was until recently.

“We didn’t have those deep looks. We couldn’t go in and open their records, go in deep and find out what’s going on. Right now we can,” Thompson said.

The school is asking for $23 million from the state to cover financial losses from recent years and a projected budget shortfall.

KSU plans to hire a new president by next summer.