(The Center Square) – Gov. Andy Beshear has called for a full review of Kentucky State University’s finances after the Frankfort-based institution’s president resigned.
In an executive order signed Tuesday, the governor requested the state’s Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) to assess the university’s fiscal viability and provide him a report with recommendations regarding appropriations for the upcoming budget. He also ordered school officials to provide the Council with any records its staff needs as part of the review.
On Saturday, KSU announced a special board meeting for Tuesday. The agenda included a closed session for pending litigation and personnel matters as well as a call to approve an external audit of the university’s finances.
During that meeting, President M. Christopher Brown II submitted his immediate resignation, which the Regents accepted.
“The Board accepts Dr. Brown’s resignation and supports the current administration as they ready to engage with students, parents and campus stakeholders for the fall semester,” board chair Dr. Elaine Farris said in a school statement. “We anticipate a cordial, collaborative and seamless transition and wish Dr. Brown well as he follows his interest in other professional endeavors.”
KSU, a historically Black land-grant university founded in 1886, had an endowment of about $18.5 million as of the end of the 2019 fiscal year, according to DataUSA. That’s the smallest endowment of any public university in Kentucky. Its enrollment is also the lowest among the eight state-run universities, as it had 2,171 students on campus for the fall 2019 semester.
By comparison, the University of Kentucky had an endowment of $1.5 billion through last year, and the state’s flagship university had an undergraduate enrollment of 22,246 for the 2020-21 school year.
In a statement announcing the order, Beshear said his administration is dedicated to providing “stability and transparency” for the university.
“KSU has been a unique and essential institution in the commonwealth for more than a century, serving generations of students as Kentucky’s historically Black land-grant university,” he said. “My administration is committed to getting KSU through this so that the school can continue to provide high-quality education to students for generations to come.”
In addition to the financial review, Beshear also ordered CPE to give the KSU Board of Regents recommendations regarding the university’s administrative structure. The Council will also help the board develop a plan that gives the school administrative and financial stability.
“While we’ve been monitoring recent developments, our next step is to gather necessary information so we can provide as much assistance as possible,” CPE President Aaron Thompson said in a statement.
Brown was the school’s 18th president and started in that role in 2017.
At the same special meeting Tuesday, the Board of Regents unanimously appointed Clara Ross Stamps to serve as acting president. She then announced the hiring of Gregory Rush as the CFO and vice president of finance and administration.
Rush, who was a KSU executive six years ago, comes back to the school after serving as a senior fellow and legislative liaison for CPE.
Stamps, who also arrived at KSU four years ago, is the school's official spokesperson and senior vice president for brand identity and university relations. In the school’s statement, she vowed to work with all stakeholders with the goal of promoting the students and advancing the university.
“I am humbled and energized by the opportunity to serve our students and community following what has certainly been a time of unprecedented change,” she said.
KSU’s Regents will work on the search process for the next permanent president during its quarterly meeting in September.