Education

WKU

When it comes to depth of curriculum, breadth of research and impact on the state economy, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville lead the way among public colleges in the Bluegrass State.

When it comes to investing donors’ dollars, though, leadership might be best found outside of the state’s money centers, in college towns like Bowling Green, Morehead and Murray.

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting examined five years’ worth of investment returns of 11 collegiate endowments across the state. The chief takeaway? Bigger is definitely not better. The public colleges in Kentucky that have amassed the largest war chests of public donations are nowhere near the winner’s circle when it comes to making money.

UK — whose $1 billion endowment is the state’s largest — ranked a mediocre sixth in generating returns on donors’ money over five years. The U of L Foundation’s ranked ninth.

The endowment that generated the best three and five-year returns as of Dec. 31 was the College Heights Foundation at Western Kentucky University. The smaller of two endowments at Western, College Heights posted an average annual return of 7.4 percent on its investments from 2011 through 2015. It was also the second-best performer in 2015 alone, when a flat stock market, low bond yields and plunging commodity prices sent most endowment balances into reverse.

Kentucky State President Raymond Burse to Resign

May 23, 2016
Kentucky State University

Kentucky State University President Raymond Burse is resigning at the end of this week.

In a statement released Monday, Burse says he decided that the "further demands and challenges of Kentucky State must be undertaken by new leadership."

A Harvard-educated lawyer, Burse was named Kentucky State president in October 2014 after a short interim period and made headlines when he gave up $90,000 of his presidential salary to boost the wages of university workers. Burse also served a term as president of the traditionally African-American university in the 1980s.

The university was spared from a recent round of funding cuts imposed by Gov. Matt Bevin.

Burse says in the statement he decided to leave the job after nearly six months of personal assessments and evaluations. His last day is Friday.

As the Kentucky Community & Technical College System eliminates 506 jobs, it disclosed that it paid $815,741 last year to former president Michael McCall.

KCTCS Cuts More than 500 Jobs to Close Budget Gap

May 19, 2016
KCTCS

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System has eliminated more than 500 positions and suspended some college programs, all in an effort to close a $26 million gap in its budget.

KCTCS spokeswoman Mary Hemlepp tells local media that 505 positions have recently been eliminated system-wide. She says 191 of those positions were faculty and 315 were staff, but because many of the positions were vacant or were vacated through retirements, only 45 faculty and 125 staff were actually laid off.

Hemlepp says the college system's financial problems stemmed from seven years of state appropriation cuts and an additional 4.5 percent in the next biennium. Several years of declining enrollment also led to tuition shortfalls.

KCTCS President Jay Box announced earlier this month that next year's tuition is being increased by 6.1 percent.

Midway University

The only women’s college in Kentucky will undergo a major transition this fall.

For the first time in nearly 170 years, Midway University will begin accepting men as full-time undergraduates with the fall semester.

Male students can apply to live in residence halls starting in Spring of 2017. Previously, men were accepted only in graduate or online programs.

The school’s board of trustees voted Monday to make the change.

University President John Marsden said the decision was made in order for the liberal arts university to remain viable.

Midway traces its roots back to 1847, when it was founded as the Kentucky Female Orphan School.

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

The leader of Bowling Green city schools says the district will adhere to federal guidance concerning transgender students while at the same time keeping  all students safe. 

In a letter on Friday to public schools across the nation, the U.S. Department of Education said federal law requires them to allow students to use restrooms and locker rooms based on their chosen identity. 

Superintendent Gary Fields says those issues are handled on an individual basis between students, their parents, and school administrators.

"We have to have those discussions to see where students are at that time, based on whether it's a younger student or an older student.  What is best for one child may not be best for other children," Fields told WKU Public Radio.  "We make decisions that are in the best interests of those students and all of our students."

Morehead State University

Morehead State University has announced budget recommendations, including the elimination of 64 positions.

Multiple news outlets report school officials made the announcement Thursday.

President Wayne D. Andrews said in a statement that the cuts are in response to a budget deficit of more than $9.7 million because of declining enrollment, population and a decrease in state funding.

Of the positions proposed to be eliminated, 30 are filled and 34 are vacant. Other recommendations include a total of $4.9 million in revenue enhancements and $718,594 reductions in the university's operating budget.

A final budget recommendation is expected to be presented to the Board of Regents in June.

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell says budget cuts at the school won’t negatively impact academic programs.

WKU Wednesday released a plan to eliminate $6 million from the fiscal year 2017 budget.

Ransdell said no degree programs or faculty positions that are currently filled are being eliminated. The cuts are the result of a 4.5 percent reduction in state funding, an enrollment decline, and a 48 percent increase in the employer contribution to the Kentucky Employees Retirement System.

Nearly $750,000 in savings will be gained by moving the school's Buildings Services and Grounds employees to a private contract with Sodexo.

However, Ransdell said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon that none of those employees will lose their jobs.

“Each employee, the 202 in our BSA work group and our grounds crew, will receive a dollar-an-hour raise,” Ransdell told reporters. “Their compensation will go from $9.26 an hour to $10.26 an hour, so they’re getting nearly a ten-percent pay increase.”

The cost of a college education in Kentucky continues to inch upward.  Meeting in Bowling Green Tuesday, the Council on Postsecondary Education approved tuition ceilings for the state’s public colleges and universities.

The state’s two research schools, the Universities of Kentucky and Louisville, will be allowed to raise their in-state undergraduate rates up to 5 percent each for the 2016-17 academic year. 

For the state’s six comprehensive universities, the increases vary from school to school.  The CPE approved a 4.65 percent hike for Western Kentucky University; 4.95 percent for Northern Kentucky; and 5.4 percent for Morehead State. 

Tuition costs can rise at Eastern Kentucky University by 5.3 percent; 10.4 percent at Murray State; and 5.8 percent at Kentucky State.

The CPE is allowing the Kentucky Community and Technical College System to hike tuition by $9 per credit hour.

Elissa Nadworny/NPR

The way Daphne Patton remembers it, it was more money than she’d ever seen.

It was 1990, and the Kentucky Supreme Court had declared the state’s school funding system unconstitutional. Within a year, a lot more money started flowing to the poorest school districts, a 50 to 60 percent increase in their budgets.

Patton, an elementary school teacher from Wolfe County in eastern Kentucky, says schools had an abundance of resources, “everything we needed.”

The ruling forced lawmakers to re-imagine how Kentucky would pay for its schools by mandating that they reduce disparities between rich and poor districts.

“The best of the best things happened for our kids,” Patton recalls. “We were able to buy books. We were able to invest in technologies.”

More than a third of people in Wolfe County live in poverty, but the district was able to hire more teachers. Patton says that solution is the kind of thing wealthy school districts take for granted. But this is Appalachia, she adds: Here, education is akin to an escape plan from poverty.

Henderson High School

Henderson County High School is gearing up for its new School of Fine Arts.

Current courses in voice, instrumental music, theater, dance and the visual arts will be expanded to create career tracks.

High school fine arts coordinator Brian Ettensohn is spearheading the program. He says the goal is to provide in-depth training that leads to a career path.

“There are a high number of students who are in probably band and theater, or possibly choir and theater,” says Ettensohn. “These are students that are passionate, highly passionate, about the arts. And they’re going on to college and looking at a career.”

The new program is being developed with existing staff.  So there will be no additional expense to the school district.

Ettensohn says one of the biggest challenges is parents.

WKU

Western Kentucky University is one step closer to hiring an executive search firm to look for the school’s next president.

The Board of Regents on Friday approved a motion to award a bid to the Boston-based firm Isaacson, Miller.

Dr. Phillip Bale of Glasgow, the chairman of the WKU presidential search committee, said the committee was impressed with the recent track record of Isaacson, Miller.

“They’ve done many presidential searches within the last few years. They’ve done the presidential searches for Vanderbilt, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Illinois, just to name a few.”

The proposed contract with the firm has to be approved by the state next month.

WKU

The faculty and staff at Western Kentucky University are being asked to give input related to the search for the school’s next president.

A forum for faculty is being held Friday afternoon, April 15,  on campus, and staff members are invited to a forum Friday, April 22.

WKU President Gary Ransdell has announced he’ll retire at the end of June 2017.

Doctor Phillip Bale of Glasgow, chair of the presidential search committee, says the early announcement by Ransdell gives the committee ample time to do a thorough job.

“I envision the next several months will be spent mainly developing our position profile—that is, what sort of skill set and what sort of attributes do we want the next president to have,” Dr. Bale said.

Ransdell will have served as WKU president for 20 years when he steps down.

WKU

Western Kentucky University president Gary Ransdell says the state’s universities have reached a compromise with Governor Matt Bevin and House and Senate leaders over cuts to higher education funding.

In an email to faculty and staff Saturday, Ransdell said schools would get back some of the state funding that Bevin recently cut from the last quarter of the current fiscal year. The governor had enacted a 4.5 percent cut, saying the money was needed to help bolster the state’s public pension systems.

Under the plan described by Ransdell, that cut will be reduced to 2 percent. For WKU, that means a one-time loss of $1.49 million, instead of $3.35 million.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has challenged Bevin’s authority to unilaterally enact such cuts to the current fiscal year support for universities, and has said he’ll sue the Governor over the issue.

Ransdell says the deal negotiated Friday also spells out cuts for universities over the next two fiscal years.

Creative Commons

The number of high school seniors in the state going on to pursue bachelor’s and associate’s degrees has remained steady, according to two new reports from the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics.

The “Kentucky High School Feedback Report on College Going” and the “Kentucky High School Feedback Report on College Success” show that six in 10 graduates of public high schools in the state in 2014 enrolled in college and scored as being better-prepared for college courses. The figure was virtually identical in 2013.

Of those 2014 graduates, more than 50 percent were pursuing a bachelor’s degree and about 36 percent were seeking an associate’s degree.

Both the highest and lowest percentage of high school graduates attending college can be found in Jefferson County.

Dupont Manual High School has the highest percentage at 92 percent, while Valley Traditional High School has the lowest percentage at 33.9 percent.

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