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Hughes: Speak Up to Legislators for Gateway College's Plans

Dr. Ed Hughes, president & CEO of Gateway Community & Technical College is urging supporters to speak up to legislators about the school's planned urban campus in Downtown Covington.

Hughes is asking supporters to speak at two forums scheduled by the Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus. The first is Saturday, February 1, at the Grant County Courthouse in Williamstown at 10 a.m. A second will follow on Saturday, February 22, at the METS Center in Erlanger, also at 10 a.m.

The Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus is made up of state senators and representatives from Northern Kentucky counties. "I urge to consider attending one or both of these meetings to show your support for Gateway and higher education in general," Hughes wrote in an email Friday.

The push from Hughes comes a week and a half after Governor Steve Beshear announced his proposed budget which includes possible funding of more than $11 million for Gateway's ambitious plans for a sprawling urban metro campus in Downtown Covington. The funding would allow for one project at the school, Beshear's budget said.

The proposed plan includes the use of agency bonds for the first time every to fund up to seventy-five percent of the cost of sixteen hoped-for capital projects at each member of the Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS). The so-called KCTCS BuildSmart Initiative includes bonding capacity of $11.25 million for Gateway's urban metro campus, which, in his email, Hughes calls, "a bold investment in education, economic, and community development that will transform the Northern Kentucky region by providing the next generation of skilled workers."

The remaining twenty-five percent of funding would have to be raised privately for a total project cost of $15 million.

"Governor Beshear deserves our thanks for proposing a common sense means of stretching the Commonwealth's scarce resources to support capital expansion," Hughes wrote.

Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson, in a visit to Covington last year, echoed Hughes's expectations that an urban campus could transform Covington. Some of the students trained at Gateway are in line for some of the new jobs recently announced by Beshear at Covington's RiverCenter office towers.

Beshear is also expected to name a new Board of Directors for Gateway in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Hughes is also asking supporters to push the state government to restore a 2.5% proposed cut to KCTCS and state university funding. "This cut will impact Gateway and is on top of the approximately $650,000 reduction in state funding (Gateway) has sustained since 2008," Hughes wrote.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Gateway Urban Center in Covington/RCN file