Higher Education

Rob Canning, WKMS

Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education President Bob King says Kentucky’s recent strides in economic recovery have not been reflected in its funding for higher education.

The CPE was at Murray State University Tuesday evening as part of its series of town hall debates to gather input on the new five-year strategic initiative plan.

An audience of about 100 educators, business leaders and local and state government officials were present for the forum in MSU's Freed Curd Auditorium.

One of the key challenges outlined in King's presentation was finding alternative funding.

State Funding

Since the 2008 recession, Kentucky colleges have had to cut budgets and raise tuition in light of reduced state appropriations. Although some state experts say the Commonwealth is now on an economic upswing, King says colleges are still struggling to maintain quality programs with reduced funding levels.

University of Kentucky

Michael Lewis got fed up seeing his peers struggle with student debt—so he decided to do something about it.

Lewis, an 18-year-old from Louisville, and a small team of his fellow students at the University of Kentucky are preparing to launch a start-up that takes direct aim the nationwide issue of student debt.

The start-up, called FinanceU,will give prospective college students a platform to fund their own education through crowdsourcing.

“FinanceU (will be) available to any student who seeks to or is already trying affording higher education,” he said.

To use, FinanceU students will have to create an online profile, complete with hobbies, skills and interests. Then, the start-up will employ a three-tier crowdsourcing model.

The state Senate recently approve a bill that would tie higher education funding to Kentucky universities’ ability to produce more and better graduates.

Critics of the present funding model say that schools are funded with an outdated system that doesn’t account for adjustments in enrollment numbers and graduation rates.

“The university system has to be responsive and we can’t keep graduating people, young men and women, that can’t be employed,” said Senate President Robert Stivers during a debate on Wednesday.


Update at 4:12 p.m.:

A series of weekend events hosted by Kentucky churches aimed at connecting minority students with higher education information is being postponed because of the weather.

Kentucky Community and Technical College System and churches throughout the state were scheduled to host “Super Sunday” events, targeting African-American and Latino students. Events in Bardstown, Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Henderson, Leitchfield, Owensboro, Somerset and several other cities  are being postponed to later dates.

You can see which Super Sunday events are impacted by the postponements here.

Original post:

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System is making a special effort this weekend to reach out to prospective minority students. 

The fifth annual “Super Sunday” will be held at churches across the state.  KCTCS President Jay Box says the recruitment initiative targets African-American and Latino students.


WKU is receiving praise for the number of Fulbright Scholars it produced last year.

The six grants awarded to WKU students ranks third in the nation among schools offering Master’s degrees, according to a list compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education. WKU’s six current Fulbright Scholars are teaching English and conducting research in five countries: Costa Rica, England, Germany, Turkey, and Vietnam.

Melinda Grimsley-Smith, with the school’s Office of Scholar Development, says a growing number of students are seeing the value of scholarships that offer an international component “where they’re taking a year off, or a year in between here and grad school, or between here and a job to go out into the world for a year and live in another culture and be a cultural ambassador for the United States.”

She also believes part of the school’s recent success stems from its efforts at convincing more students that they have a shot at landing prestigious grants, like the Fulbright.

“Students are more and more willing to take the risk of applying, I think. They’re more willing to think of themselves as compelling and competitive candidates for national scholarships.”

WKU’s 2014-15 Fulbright Award recipients are:

Centre College

Centre College is establishing a new full-ride scholarship program aimed at attracting students who want to make an impact overseas.

The liberal arts school in Danville has announced a $20 million challenge gift from an anonymous donor that will be used to fund the Lincoln Scholars Program. The program will award 10 scholarships a year beginning in the fall of 2016.

The anonymous gift offers a dollar-for-dollar match and is part of Centre’s Third Century Campaign, which aims to raise $200 million by 2019, when the school celebrates the bicentennial anniversary of its founding in 1819.

Centre Dean of Admissions, Bob Nesmith, says those awarded the scholarship will get more than just free tuition, room and board, and books. They’ll also receive $10,000 for an independent study project that contains an international component.

“When you take an ambitious 18 year old and say, ‘OK, put together something good and exciting for something somewhere in the world that you want to work on, and we’re going to help you fund it’--that’ll be super appealing to this kind of kid.”


Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education and university presidents are working to craft proposed changes to the state’s higher education funding formula.

The CPE and school leaders can’t change the funding formula on their own. Such a move would have to be approved by state lawmakers. But university and CPE leaders meet on a monthly basis, and a major topic of discussion recently has been a proposal to include “performance funding.”

Such a plan could potentially reward schools based on factors such as enrollment levels, graduation rates, or efforts in closing achievement gaps. Any effort at instituting performance funding, however, is likely contingent on lawmakers increasing the overall amount of higher education funding.

The Courier-Journal reports University of Louisville President James Ramsey sent a letter to the CPE last month saying he would only support performance-based funding if it came with new money.

Centre College

Centre College in Danville is unveiling a new scholarship program endowed by the largest single gift ever given to the school.

J. David and Marlene Grissom of Louisville have agreed to fund a four-year, full tuition scholarship that will go to ten first-generation college students each year beginning in the fall of 2015. J. David Grissom is a Centre graduate who served as chairman of the school’s board of trustees for two decades.

The total amount of the gift isn’t being made public, but Centre officials say it’s the largest ever received in the Danville school’s 195 year history.

Centre’s Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Bob Nesmith, says the school is already recruiting the first class of Grissom Scholars.

Kentucky Making Progress Toward Top 20 National Status in Education

Sep 3, 2014
Kentucky Dept. of Education

The Commonwealth is seeing gains and losses in its race to reach top tier national status in key areas of education. In 2008, the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence challenged the state to reach the top 20 by the year 2020.

The committee Wednesday released an update on the state's progress. According to the report, Kentucky is on track to meet the goal in areas like fourth and eighth grade reading, teacher salaries, and Advanced Placement credits. However, the state has lost ground in areas including eighth grade math and the share of higher education costs to families.

Prichard Committee Director Stu Silberman says it's well past time to act on tax reform and put more state resources into education. 

"You know we're making good progress,"  Silberman said. "I think we're accountable for the dollars that are being spent and when we are making good progress. That's the time to say, hey look we recognize that, we need to step in here and really help."  

With the proper state investment, Silberman says six years from now, Kentucky could crack the top 10 in education nationally. 

Clinton Lewis/WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell says it’s every employee’s job to help the school retain as many students as possible.

Addressing faculty and staff at Friday morning’s convocation at Van Meter Hall, Dr.Ransdell cited examples of academic progress, including an increase in the average ACT score of first-time baccalaureate students.

But he added that the school is still allowing too many students to leave campus without finishing their degrees.

“We are graduating just over 50 percent of our students in six years and we are still losing 25 percent of each freshman class within one year of their initial enrollment. So, for our students’ sake—if not for our own financial stability—please become part of the solution to keeping our students at WKU until they graduate.”

The WKU President said he was concerned about the value of the school’s remedial courses that many freshmen take. Ransdell added he’s worried the school is losing students who return home after their first semester with only three to six credit hours.