WKU President Gary Ransdell says the university is at a crossroads in three areas: enrollment, state funding, and employee compensation.
While noting many of the university’s achievements, Ransdell also outlined the school’s challenges to faculty and staff in his opening convocation Friday morning.
Faced with an enrollment decline in the last couple of years, WKU is focusing more on recruitment and retention. Dr. Ransdell said some of the efforts are beginning to pay off.
"As of this week, our first-time incoming student numbers are up slightly," Ransdell noted. "Our part-time undergraduate numbers have stabilized, but our part-time graduate numbers are still tracking downward. Our biggest challenge, however, is a 23 percent drop in continuing full-time freshmen."
Dr. Ransdell also addressed the continuing challenge of less state funding.
"The last year Kentucky increased base funding for higher education was 2006," added Ransdell. "By the time the 2016 budget is considered next spring, we will have suffered through a lost decade of state support for higher education."
President Ransdell said he will ask the 2016 Kentucky General Assembly to restore cuts to higher education and change the way funds are allocated to a performance-based model. He said given the school’s growth and degree productivity, WKU would fare better in the next state budget. He added that the increased funding would help pay for faculty\staff salary increases, which Ransdell called a top priority for next year.
The fall semester at WKU begins Monday.