NKU announces President Ashish Vaidya’s departure: ‘A very logical time to do it’

Mark Payne
Mark Payne
Mark Payne is the government and politics reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected].

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Northern Kentucky University and President Ashish Vaidya aren’t parting ways because of the university’s recent budget troubles.

That’s according to Rich Boehne, chair of NKU’s Board of Regents.

The announcement that Vaidya and the university are parting ways came Thursday during a special Board of Regents meeting.

Vaidya said in a statement released after the meeting that it was an honor to serve the university over the past 4 1/2 years.  

“Driven by Success by Design, we have achieved record retention and graduation rates, strong results in the Commonwealth’s performance funding model, completed the most impactful capital campaign in our history and successfully resolved the untenable pension crisis,” Vaidya said in the statement.

Boehne said at the meeting that Vaidya and the university mutually agreed upon the president’s departure, which is effective Dec. 19, 2022.

“Time is now for a leadership transition as the university embarks on a multi-year repositioning effort in response to changing market and financial pressures impacting all of higher education,” the board said in a statement.

“On behalf of the Board of Regents, I’d like to thank Ashish for his many accomplishments at NKU, and also express our deep appreciation to Nita and the whole family for the sacrifices they have made over the past 4 1/2 years in service to our mission, our students and the region,” board chair Rich Boehne said during the meeting.  

Boehne said after the meeting that Vaidya’s departure was unrelated to the budget. He also said he felt like the university has a handle on the financial situation. 

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“Just really more focused on what the university needs to look like over the next three, five, seven, eight, nine years,” Boehne said. 

When asked why the university and Vaidya made the decision to part ways now, Boehne said that it was as good of a time as any. 

“I think we saw it differently: Two sides had come to that conclusion, the board and the president, then, at the end of the semester, it was probably a very logical time to do it,” Boehne said, elaborating that at any time they would make this decision they would be scrambling to find an interim president. 

The university hasn’t figured out who the interim president will be yet, Boehne said. 

“I can honestly tell you, I don’t have a name in my back pocket,” Boehne said.

Vaidya has been with NKU since July 1, 2018.

The announcement regarding Vaidya comes on the heels of an October report showing the university faced a budget deficit of $18.7 million, which has since increased to $24.2 million.

According to reporting from NKU’s student newspaper, The Northerner, the university’s gross tuition and fees revenue fell by 2.3% from $168.5 million in 2021 to $164.6 million this year, while expenses rose from $276.7 million to $290.2 million, representing a 4.9% change. 

The paper further reported, “On the whole, Alltop updated the university’s revenue as $266.5 million and expenses as $290.2 million, creating a $23.7 million net loss. Aside from large increases in financial aid and declining on-campus enrollment—two factors that NKU has emphasized as primary contributors to the deficit—Alltop attributed the loss to $6.5 million in anticipated salary, travel, and operating savings in previous years that never materialized, as well as staff departures and pension expenses.”

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After the report and as part of its repositioning strategy, the Board announced at a Nov. 9 meeting that it would allow a “voluntary separation program” for eligible tenured and tenure-track faculty.

While the university is experiencing a budget deficit, the Kentucky General Assembly provided a significant amount of funding to universities in Kentucky this year. NKU received from two of these funds — the Postsecondary Education Performance Fund and the “Bucks for Brains” Endowment Match Program, according to Matt Cecil, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. 

When it came to the metrics for the Performance Fund, NKU finished second, ahead of the University of Louisville and behind the University of Kentucky, Cecil said. 

“Out of all the universities in Kentucky, we did the second best as far as achieving those metrics after the University of Kentucky and ahead of the University of Louisville,” Cecil said.  

NKU is scheduled to receive $265,344,400 in the 2022-2023 school year and $269,908,900 in the 2023-2024 school year. The funding comes from the General, Restricted, and Federal Funds. 

“Certainly, the funding is coming our way, and we’re really appreciative, and we’re gonna do our best to make the most of that so that we have an even greater impact,” Cecil told LINK nky in May. 

Further, the legislature awarded Northern Kentucky University with $46.7 million for asset preservation during the legislative session.

As part of those funds, the university agreed to a 15% match equaling an additional $7 million in matching funds, totaling $53.8 million.

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