WKU’s fall semester is still about five weeks away, but enrollment numbers are on pace to increase over last year. The WKU Board of Regents was told Friday that a 100 to 250 increase in students is expected, reversing last fall’s decline.
"The full-time students in Kentucky are going up, the out-of-state students are increasing, the international students across the globe are looking strong, so I think it's in a healthy place," said Dr. Brian Meredith, WKU's Chief Enrollment and Graduation Officer.
A drop in tuition revenue in the fall 2013 and spring 2014 semesters contributed to a $3.1 million revenue shortfall. The university is making up for the loss, partly, by privatizing health services on campus.
Vanderburgh County has been chosen as one of five counties in Indiana that will take part in the Pre-K pilot program beginning early next year.
Gov. Mike Pence’s office announced the selections Tuesday from among 18 finalists. This year’s Indiana General Assembly established the pilot program, which is intended to prepare low-income four-year-olds for kindergarten.
“Every Indiana child deserves to start kindergarten ready to learn and to begin a lifetime of learning,” said Governor Pence in a written statement. “Today, I am pleased to accept the recommendations of our working group. The state looks forward to partnering with these counties and working to ensure that these resources are made available to assist some of our most vulnerable children early next year.”
The governor’s office says the selections were based on need and ability of each county to meet that need.
The four other Indiana counties include Allen, Jackson, Lake and Marion.
The Campbellsville University Board of Regents was set to meet today to further explore efforts to change the way it selects board members – including a discussion over whether it could elect a non-Baptist trustee.
The Herald-Leader reports a draft copy of the changes was presented to the Kentucky Baptist Convention last week. The KBC was not supportive of the changes and plans an officers’ meeting regarding the issue on Thursday.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention contributes $ 1 million in funding per year to Campbellsville University in a relationship that stretches back decades. The funding represents roughly two percent of the university's overall annual budget of $57 million.
For some Kentucky school districts, the check is in the mail. The state Department of Education is sending out this week $10,000 grants to 53 school systems that have raised the high school dropout age.
The grant money will go toward programs to prevent students from leaving high school without a diploma and to enact the new policy for the 2015-16 school year, which is the first year the policy can be fully implemented. The department made similar grants last year to the first group of districts to raise the dropout age.
At the urging of Governor Beshear, the 2013 General Assembly passed a bill raising the compulsory school age from 16 to 18. Under the measure, once 55 percent of the 173 school districts in the state, approved the change, the rest would have to follow suit. The requirement was met just two weeks after the law took effect.
A group of parents has appealed a decision by a Louisville high school to allow transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their sexual identities.
The Courier-Journal reports the Atherton High School site-based decision-making council will meet next week to discuss the appeal, which was filed by Louisville attorney Clinton Elliott, who is with the Christian-based legal group Alliance Defending Freedom.
The council voted last month to amend its policy after school Principal Thomas Aberli decided to allow a transgender student to use the girls' restroom and locker room. The student was born male but identifies as female.
The appeal says the school panel's decision was "inconsistent with state and federal law, inconsistent with concerns for safety and inconsistent with concerns for liability."
The Bowling Green Board of Education has approved an increase in non-resident tuition for the coming school year.
In a special meeting Monday night, the board voted for a $100 increase in tuition from $312 to $412.
The hike was recommended by Superintendent Joe Tinius as an option to recover district funding spent on legal fees throughout the non-resident dispute with Warren County Schools that has been ongoing for more than a year.
"Our feeling is that the efforts in that regard are related to the non-resident students attending our district and that at least some of that cost needed to be picked up by non-resident families," Tinius told WKU Public Radio.
According to Tinius, legal fees are approaching $200,000.
The two school districts are waiting to receive a final ruling from Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday regarding the number of Warren County students allowed to attend city schools in 2014-15 academic year.
The Kentucky Arts Council is examining data gathered by two studies regarding the status of art education across the commonwealth. The studies were conducted by South Arts, an organization that represents Kentucky and eight other states. Lori Meadows is executive director of the Kentucky Arts Council.
“Arts education really contributes to the education of the whole student,” said Lori Meadows, executive director of the Kentucky Arts Council. “In other words, it teaches creative thinking skills and the ability to connect different curriculum and different subject areas together.”
The studies found that a sampling of Kentucky schools is performing at-or-above national averages when it comes to providing access to arts education. But Meadows cautions that only 27 percent of schools in the state responded to the a voluntary survey known as Phase One. But Phase Two, says Meadows, profiled an individual program that has shown success. In Kentucky’s case it was Owensboro Public Schools.
“Children in that district – the students start out and they have the ability to participate in visual art, drama, music and dance,” said Meadows. “And at that particular high school [Owensboro High School] the drama program, known as the Rose Curtain players, is the oldest high school drama program in the state.”
Meadows says community support of arts education is equally important as what is provided by school districts.
The WKU Board of Regents has approved a budget that gets nearly half of its funding from student tuition and fees. By a 9-2 vote Friday morning, regents passed a $392 million spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.
The new budget contains a $3.1 million dollar cut to Academic Affairs, which includes the elimination of 26 vacant faculty positions.
WKU History Professor and Faculty Regent Patti Minter was one of the two who voted against the budget. She said while some can argue it makes sense that academic departments face the toughest cuts since they have the largest overall piece of the budget, such decisions are harming WKU’s ability to attract and retain the best teachers and researchers.
“All of this would impact the students negatively,” Dr. Minter told WKU Public Radio. “Because this is the core mission, this is why Dr. Cherry built this college on a hill in 1906. And as he said in the depths of the depression, in these times we have to cut out all the extracurriculars, and we have to get back to the basics, which if the academic mission.”
Less than 19 percent of the next WKU budget comes from state funding, with nearly 49 percent made up of student tuition and fees.
As part of the budget, the Regents also approved a 4.8 percent tuition increase for resident undergraduate students, who will now pay nearly $4,600 per semester. The spending plan also includes a one percent cost-of living adjustment for WKU employees, with a minimum increase of $500 per worker.
WKU President Gary Ransdell told reporters after Friday’s regents meeting that declining state funding for higher education is a trend that has to be reversed soon.
“If we can get to the point we’ve gotten beyond state budget cuts, that would be a modest satisfaction. The victory will be if we can finally get Kentucky to invest in higher education, because it’s been now six years.”
WKU Health Services Deal Imminent
In addition to passing a budget, WKU regents were also told the school is close to signing an agreement with Graves Gilbert Clinic to run the campus Health Services operation which serves students, faculty, and staff. The school announced in March it would seek to privatize the campus facility, with an estimated savings of $1.1 million dollars.
Kentucky is poised to receive federal grant money to improve broadband speeds in public schools.
The Federal Communication Commission’s E-rate program provides $2.4 billion dollars annually to schools across the country to modernize Internet accessibility.
Now that the FCC has pledged an additional $2 billion for the next two years, Kentucky educators are poised to get a $22 million slice of that pie.
Associate Commissioner of the state’s Office of Next Generation Learners, Amanda Ellis, says the money will improve connectivity to wireless devices that can download video lessons for students to watch at home.
“Students have the opportunity to watch videos in the evening, or after school. And when they go into their classrooms, and their teachers work from what they learned online. That’s not accessible to a lot of people even in the school setting, because it’s not fast enough.”
The FCC is expected to make a decision on the funds next month.