Grawemeyer Hall at University of Louisville

Grawemeyer Hall, University of Louisville (Eric Crawford, WDRB)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Researchers in the University of Louisville’s prized Bucks for Brains program will have about $4 million in additional funding available to them next academic year thanks to a financial maneuver approved last week by the board of U of L’s nonprofit foundation.

The foundation came into about $15 million of cash through a debt refinancing, which it invested to shore up the roughly $600 million endowment that the foundation holds for U of L.

Foundation officials say it’s an example of how they’re trying to replenish U of L’s endowment after former U of L President James Ramsey, who resigned in 2016, spent too much of the fund during his 14-year tenure.

“I think it’s a huge first step to say the plan is working and we are creatively finding ways to replenish these damaged accounts … We are working very hard to correct past behaviors,” foundation executive director Keith Sherman said in an interview last week.

The university and foundation remain embroiled in a year-old lawsuit against Ramsey and other former administrators over the alleged overspending.

To be sure, even with the additional $4 million, the foundation projects that the total support it provides annually to the university from endowment earnings will drop for the fourth-straight year.

Under a spending plan approved last week, the foundation plans to provide $27 million to the university in the 2020 academic year, down from $32 million this year. In the 2016-17 academic year – the last influenced by Ramsey’s administration – the endowment provided $46 million to U of L.

About $235 million of the endowment is dedicated to Bucks for Brains, a state program from the late 1990s that attracted star faculty members to U of L and the University of Kentucky by providing state money to match private donations for their research. U of L hasn't received state funding for Bucks for Brains since 2010. 

Within the endowment, about 90 of the 150 accounts tied to Bucks for Brains research have been frozen for years – meaning they don’t provide annual funding – because their market value is less than the original value of the donation.

The foundation’s move to replenish those accounts will allow them to start providing annual funding once again, Sherman said.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2019 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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Chris Otts reports for WDRB.com about business and economic topics, higher education and local / state government. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after seven years with The Courier-Journal. Got a tip? Chris is at 502-585-0822 and cotts@wdrb.com.