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University of Pikeville - bearish about going public

         

 The University of Pikeville, the school formerly known as Pikeville College, is bulking up.  UPIKE’s school colors, orange and black, should remind skeptics of the scary holiday it shares – Halloween. It’s going to get scary for university people comfortable with the way things have been going. UPIKE should call itself UP – because that’s where it is going if it has its way.

The school has some serious firepower in it’s corner. Former Governor Paul Patton, the man who took on the university system in his first term and tamed it, is the school’s president. The school has some very faces in leadership in the General Assembly, the school has set its sights on becoming one of the state’s public universities.

No one in Pike County seems interested in hiding the ambition to become part of the public university system. Becoming a public university will put the school on equal footing with long established universities when it comes to funding. 

UK, U of L, Murray, Morehead, Kentucky State, Eastern, Western and Northern Kentucky Universities have been all there is for public universities for many years. UPIKE says that making it a state university will serve an underserved population and bring millions of dollars of investment into a traditionally poor area of the state. Supporters have proposed that UPIKE be funded with coal severance funds at least initially.  

In this era of a cost cutting and a budget submitted by Governor Beshear slashing most state agencies – including higher education, UPIKE”s quest seems doomed to failure.

As the song says, “It ain’t necessarily so…”

The university home page touts House Bill 260 co-sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Rep. Leslie Combs, a legislator who shares the name of famous and beloved Eastern Kentuckian- Governor Bert Combs. 

HB 260 would bring the school into the state budget at some point. Opponents argue there just aren’t enough state dollars to go around and adding another school will shrink pieces of the general fund pie even smaller than it is now.

Governor Beshear has commissioned a feasibility study of adding the University of Pikeville to the regional universities- a fact of which the school is very aware.

According to the school website announcing the Monday forum on campus:

“The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) has been selected by Gov. Steve Beshear to study the feasibility of House Bill 260, which would bring the University of Pikeville into the state university system with a goal of making college more accessible and more affordable for students from Southeastern Kentucky.
 
Consultants from NCHEMS will attend the forum, in addition to meeting with UPIKE students, faculty and staff, as well as educators and business and community leaders from a 12-county area. The state conducted similar reviews before expanding the university system to include the University of Louisville in 1970. The study is expected to take six to eight weeks.”

The website explains that “If HB 260 passes, the University of Pikeville would become Kentucky’s seventh regional four-year university with a primary service area, including Pike, Leslie, Magoffin, Letcher, Harlan, Perry, Bell, Martin, Johnson, Floyd, Breathitt and Knott counties. According to the bill, the multi-county coal severance tax revenue derived from participating counties would drop the University’s tuition from $17,050 to about $7,000, bringing it in line with other regional institutions.”

UPIKE has taken a bear for its mascot. A good choice. Once Mr. Bear wakes up, he wakes up hungry.

That pretty much describes the University of Pikeville.

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