Gateway's Erstwhile Board Perk

Free tuition went mainly to board members who were already students, but the wife of a Gateway Foundation director got a $4,771 ride. No more.

Three months ago, the Gateway Community & Technical College board of directors abruptly learned that a longstanding practice of giving free tuition to student board members was a violation of state policy.

Traditionally, one student serves on the Gateway board, and the free tuition was a mutually agreeable tradeoff. But when Pam Duncan, an attorney for the Kentucky Community & Technical College System, told the board at its May 12 meeting that free tuition had been given — wrongly — to regular board members and their families as well, directors wondered aloud about the freeloaders in their midst.

As it turns out, there was only one — from the college's foundation. In response to a public records request, KCTCS identified the free tuition recipient as Melinda Robinson, wife of former Gateway Foundation board member Rick Robinson. It says she attended the two-year college from 2005 to 2007. She received an associate’s degree in applied science in health and wellness technology and a certificate in massage therapy.

Those two years of instruction were worth $4,771, a gift footed by taxpayers and tuition-payers. People aren’t paid for their service as directors to Kentucky community colleges, and Duncan said in May that the free tuition amounted to “inappropriate” compensation. The practice has been discontinued in KCTCS.

“No other college provides a tuition waiver for their board of directors, foundation boards or family members thereof,” says KCTCS spokeswoman Mary Hemlepp.

Rick Robinson served on the Gateway Foundation board from 2003 through 2013. A Fort Mitchell resident, Robinson is an attorney, an award-winning author of political-intrigue novels and a columnist for the River City News. One of his most recent columns bore the headline, "The Pussification of College Students."

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