Gary Ransdell

The president of WKU is on the list of speakers at a forum on rising student debt being held by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

WKU President Gary Ransdell is in Missouri Monday for the event titled “Generation Debt: The Promise, Perils, and Future of Student Loans”.

According to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the average student debt per follower grew from $16,000 in 2005, to $25,000 in 2012. The College Board found that an estimated 66 percent of seniors graduating in 2011 had student loan debt.

Economic and education analysts are increasingly worried that the growing debts faced by college graduates will impair the upward mobility of young Americans.

Monday’s forum on student debt is being webcast live from St. Louis, beginning at 12:30 pm central. You can see that webcast here.

Kevin Willis

A new hotel is being called a bridge that will bring WKU and downtown Bowling Green closer together.

City and university leaders Tuesday announced that a 108-room Hyatt Place hotel will be built adjacent to the WKU Augustein Alumni Center. Construction on the four-story building will start this fall, with a scheduled opening in fall of 2014.

WKU President Gary Ransdell described the effort as a "cornerstone" that will help unite the school's campus and the city's downtown.

"This is what begins to marry Western Kentucky University--our physical campus--with downtown Bowling Green. This project is going to be the bridge which begins to bring these two very important variables in our community together."

The hotel will be owned by Dellisart Wellspring, LLC, the same group behind the Staybridge Suites Hotel in Bowling Green at the intersection of Nashville Road and Campbell Lane.

WKU's Clinton Lewis

WKU President Gary Ransdell told faculty and staff that it's unlikely that significant new state funding for higher education will come from the next Kentucky budget.

Speaking at Friday's annual convocation, President Ransdell said the recent state funding declines make it all the more important for the school to attract the highest-achieving students possible, and do everything possible to see them through to graduation.

Ransdell said WKU is challenged by a drop in the number of high school graduates in the commonwealth.

"The number of U.S. high-school graduates peaked at 3.4 million in 2010-2011 and is projected to fall to 3.2 million by 2013-14, according to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. Kentucky is projected to have a 6.1 percent decline in the number of high school graduates by 2020," said Dr. Ransdell. 

"An era of aggressive tuition increases and enrollment growth strategies that carried us from 1998 to 2008 cannot serve us well going forward. We have penetrated well the Kentucky market place, but the paradigm has shifted. The numbers in Kentucky just are not there in the future."

Joe Corcoran

The new WKU Health Sciences Complex at The Medical Center in Bowling Green will double the number of new nursing and physical therapy students graduating and entering the work force.

The first class of 80 nursing students begins classes Monday, Aug. 26.

WKU President Gary Ransdell told an audience at Thursday morning's official opening of the complex that as many as 360 students will be going through a variety of programs.

"This new building will house a bachelor's, master's, and a doctoral degree program in the WKU School of Nursing. And is will allow us to double the number of nursing students we accept every year, and the impact that will have on health care across our entire region is just profound," said Dr. Ransdell.

The first class of 30 students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program began in June and just finished their first semester.

Kevin Willis

The WKU Board of Regents will vote on the school’s next budget at a meeting Friday afternoon. The nearly $394 million spending plan for 2013-14 is a 1.4 percent increase over last year’s budget.

If approved, 46 percent of the revenue used to run WKU would come from tuition and student fees. Only 18 percent of the proposed budget comes from state funding.

The budget vote comes after several tumultuous months on the WKU campus. In April, the Council on Postsecondary Education rejected President Gary Ransdell’s request for a 5 percent tuition increase, granting just a 3 percent hike. Ransdell told WKU faculty and staff that the decision meant the school was going to have to cut jobs.

However, within a few weeks of that announcement, Ransdell said WKU Vice-Presidents had come up with enough ways to cut costs and shift personnel that nobody on campus would lose their job.

The WKU Board of Regents meets Friday, June 21, at 12:30 p.m. in the Cornelius A. Martin Regents Room in the Mass Media and Technology Hall.

You can see the complete agenda for Friday's meeting here.


WKU President Gary Ransdell has spelled out how the school will handle a $2.1 million dollar budget cut next fiscal year.

In an email sent to faculty and staff Wednesday afternoon, Ransdell said that starting July 1, WKU will eliminate the budgets for the Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching—or FACET--and the Center of Excellence in the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences.

Recurring funding will end for the Provost’s Initiative for Excellence, and the budgets of the ALIVE Center and Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility will be combined.

WKU will close its center in Radcliff, and will operate programs previously held there at its campuses in Elizabethtown and Ft. Knox.

Earlier this week, President Ransdell said the school had found ways to deal with the budget cuts without eliminating jobs, although some positions could be shifted to other departments on campus.

Here is an excerpt from the email Dr. Ransdell sent Wednesday:


WKU employees impacted by departmental consolidations should know by Wednesday if they are affected by the moves.

For weeks, WKU President Gary Ransdell has been warning that the school was going to have to cut personnel in light of an expected $2.1 million dollar budget cut next fiscal year. But this week Dr. Ransdell said the school's vice-presidents were able to find ways to consolidate certain operations and departments without costing any jobs.

Dr. Ransdell says the school has been notifying those workers impacted by the changes this week. The WKU president said he will send an email to all faculty and staff either Wednesday or Thursday detailing the moves the school has made regarding consolidations.

Ransdell added he is happy the school has found a way to deal with the budget cut that didn't involve personnel or salary reductions.

WKU President Gary Ransdell says there will be no job losses next year related to the school’s upcoming budget cut. Dr. Ransdell had been warning that personnel reductions were likely following the Council on Postsecondary Education’s decision to allow a 3% in-state undergraduate tuition increase next year, instead of the 5% hike WKU had requested.

But in an email to WKU faculty and staff yesterday, Dr. Ransdell said “no one will lose their employment at WKU" despite the school having to cut $2.1 million from its budget.

The WKU president said some employees might be relocated to other departments during the next academic year. He also said some 200 faculty members will receive market-salary adjustments worth a total of $500,000.

As WKU prepares for budget cuts ahead of the next fiscal year, another Kentucky university is making plans ahead of its next budget.

The Eastern Kentucky University board of regents has approved a spending plan that includes a three-percent in-state undergraduate tuition increase and no raises for employees. The three-percent tuition hike is the maximum allowed by the Council on Postsecondary Education.

WKU President Gary Ransdell had asked the CPE for a five-percent undergraduate tuition increase, saying it was needed to help the school move forward without budget cuts.

Dr. Ransdell says WKU will now have to look at cuts that will include personnel reductions. WKU vice-presidents have given Ransdell preliminary plans for cuts in their departments.

The issue will be taken up by the school’s board of regents at their meeting in late June.

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education voted Thursday to cap tuition increases for in-state undergraduate students at the state’s public schools at three percent. It’s the smallest average tuition hike for Kentucky’s public institutions in 15 years.

WKU President Gary Ransdell spoke to the CPE at its meeting at Lindsey Wilson College, and asked for a five percent increase for WKU. 

In an email to faculty and staff Thursday afternoon, Dr. Ransdell said WKU will have to endure a budget cut due to the smaller-than-hoped-for tuition increase.

"A five percent increase would have given us a balanced budget for next year with no cuts," the WKU President wrote. "This CPE action, however, means that we have budget work to do before taking a balanced budget to our Board of Regents in June."

"We will take this in stride as we have done for the last several years.  I have asked the Vice Presidents to begin making recommendations as we begin budget reduction conversations on Monday. Every effort will be made to protect as many jobs as possible and to act in the best interest of our students and employees. I will be back in touch in due course as options take shape. "

CPE President Bob King said the board felt that tuition increases should be kept "as minimal as possible" given the "challenging economic environment" that students are facing.

Lisa Autry

Kentucky manufacturers will benefit from a new partnership between universities, professionals, and state and federal partners. 

The Advantage Kentucky Alliance was announced Friday at WKU's Center for Research and Development. 

The aim is to move Kentucky from traditional manufacturing to advanced manufacturing.  WKU President Gary Ransdell said it's important for universities to be involved in the economies they help create and sustain.

"Universities first and foremost have to be about economic development.  The time has long since passed when our primary mission was to just educate students,"said Dr. Ransdell. "As I've said for many years, educating students is a means to a much more important end and that more important end is driving Kentucky's economy and improving the quality of like for people within the reach of our universities."

The Kentucky Association of Manufacturers and local chambers of commerce will help connect manufacturers to alliance members who can address their needs, such as finding new revenue streams, developing new products and services, and learning new processes to become more efficient.

WKU President Gary Ransdell says anything less than a five-percent tuition increase next year will result in a loss of jobs on campus. In a presentation to faculty and staff Wednesday, Dr. Ransdell outlined his thoughts on the school’s budget, tuition rates, and employee compensation.

He says if the Council on Postsecondary Education approves a four-percent tuition hike instead of the five-percent increase the school is seeking, it won’t be enough.

“Then we have to figure out where we’re going to come up with $1.3 million. A one-percent tuition increase equals $1.3 million. So we’ll have to reduce our spending by $1.3 million in some fashion or another. And the message here is that’s likely to result in a loss of jobs.”

Dr. Ransdell also said faculty and staff will likely see no salary increase next year, because such a boost would have to be paid for by eliminating positions on campus. WKU Faculty Regent Patty Minter told WKU Public Radio after the meeting that she disagrees with the notion that the only way to increase pay is by cutting jobs.

The WKU faculty regent says she is hearing a great deal of concern from her colleagues concerning the new contract awarded to the school's football coach. History Professor Patti Minter was the lone voice of dissent at Friday's Board of Regents meeting when coach Bobby Petrino's $850,000 dollar contract was approved.

"Decisions like this hire demonstrate that WKU is still committed to funding entertainment at all costs, even as our enrollment flattens, our debt load expands, and our sources of new revenue dry up," Dr. Minter told the Board.

"To state the obvious, WKU must put the money into the academic mission and recognize the faculty and staff who fulfill it are as important as brick-and-mortar and extra-curricular concerns, because when funding is scarce, non-academic projects and extra-curriculars do not teach students, engage in research or public service, or retain the students which is obviously the key to our financial future."

No other regents commented on Minter's statements or the contract before the vote was taken.

After Petrino's contract was approved, Dr. Minter told WKU Public Radio her vote wasn't meant as a slight against athletics, but is instead a protest against what she sees as misplaced priorities at the school.

Hardin County Schools and WKU are partnering to create an Early College and Career Center. The partnership announced Thursday also includes Elizabethtown Community and Technical College and the Central Kentucky Community Foundation.

The result will be a new building where Hardin County school students can take courses in several career pathways, including engineering, manufacturing, automotive technology, media arts, and health sciences.

Hardin County Schools Superintendent Nanette Johnston told WKU Public Radio the center will offer students a new way to prepare for either the workforce or postsecondary education.

"We have to get out of this mindset that if you don't go to college you have to go to a vocational school. This is not a vocational school like you and I might be familiar with," said Johnston.

WKU faculty will teach classes at the Early College and Career Center during the day and college courses in the evenings once the high school students go home.

WKU Athletics

WKU President Gary Ransdell spoke to WKU Public Radio Tuesday on a variety of subjects, including the high-profile role athletics has been playing lately at the university.

Head football coach Willie Taggart left WKU late last year for a bigger salary at South Florida. Within 72 hours, WKU had hired former Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, an accomplished--and controversial--name in collegiate athletics.

What does Dr. Ransdell say to those on and off WKU's campus who wonder if athletics is playing too big a role at the university? You can hear the President's comments on WKU athletics in the audio clip above.

The rest of Dr. Ransdell's interview can be heard here.