Higher Education

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

Members of the Western Kentucky University presidential search committee are laying out a timeline of next steps in the hiring process.

The executive search firm helping identify candidates will meet later this summer with WKU faculty, staff, and student groups.

Search committee members have been looking through the first draft of a profile containing input from those on and around the school’s campus.

Search committee chairman Dr. Phillip Bale says a big part of that draft is a list of the characteristics those groups want to see in the school’s next leader.

“I don’t there’s a person that exists in the world who has all them, so part of our charge, as it were, will be to figure out what is most important.”

WKU

The Western Kentucky University Board of Regents has approved a $402 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Fifty-one-percent of the budget is funded by student tuition and fees. The new spending plan includes a 4.5 percent tuition increase, and factors in a 4.5 percent reduction in state funding.

Student regent Jay Todd Richey cast the lone vote against the budget. In a prepared statement read before the vote, the Glasgow native said he couldn’t support certain parts of the plan, including a reduction in funding for the Track and Field program.

Speaking to reporters after the budget was passed 8-1, Rickey said many WKU students believe the burden of decreased state funding for higher education isn’t being shouldered evenly.

WKU

A legal scholar at Western Kentucky University says Thursday's Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action is good for the country’s college classrooms.  

The high court upheld the affirmative action program at the University of Texas.

WKU History Professor Patricia Minter says having a diverse student body creates a better learning environment for everyone.

“As much as we empathize with the struggles of others, we sometimes need to let groups and people speak for themselves about their own lived experience.”

Opponents of affirmative action programs have argued that factors like race, ethnicity, and gender shouldn’t factor into university admissions policies.

Minter says Thursday’s high court ruling isn’t necessarily the last Supreme Court decision regarding affirmative action. She says the country’s racial and ethnic makeup is rapidly changing, and those factors could lead to future court challenges.

You can hear Minter’s conversation with WKU Public Radio by clicking on the “Listen” button above.

Alix Mattingly

The Kentucky community college system reassigned its top attorney earlier this month to a newly created “special assistant” position soon after wrapping up a monthslong investigation of his office behavior.

J. Campbell Cantrill III will serve as “special assistant to the president for policy review and revision” until he retires next summer, according to a settlement reached with the Kentucky Community & Technical College System on June 1. He will continue to draw the $137,314 annual salary he received as general counsel.

Cantrill, who served as KCTCS’ legal chief since 2008, had been placed on administrative leave with pay and barred from the system’s headquarters in Versailles and its email system on Feb. 26. In a letter sent to him that day by KCTCS President Jay Box, Cantrill was told he was being investigated for possible violations of system policies, including those that cover harassment, ethical values and use of information technology.

The letter cited “multiple reports” of violations by Cantrill but did not provide any details. KCTCS hired an outside attorney, Keith Moorman of Frost Brown Todd in Lexington, to investigate the matter.

WKU

A majority of students from India recently recruited by Western Kentucky University for its graduate program in computer science have not met their academic requirements.

WKU spokesman Bob Skipper says 59 students from India were recruited in a pilot project for the 2016 spring semester. At the end of the semester, 41 of those students did not meet the requirements of their admission. 

Eight of the students came close to meeting the requirements and are appealing. They are expected to be reinstated. The remainder have been dismissed from the university. Nineteen have transferred to other colleges.

James Gary, chairman of the computer science department at Western Kentucky University, says the first semester can be challenging for the graduate students from India.

“The most common difficulty is they do not seem to have the level of programming expertise that we would expect from a student with an undergraduate degree in computer science,” says Gary.

Alix Mattingly

The president of Kentucky’s community college system makes $375,000 annually, a paycheck that’s right on the money when compared with similar institutions, at least according to a school-funded consultant’s report.

Consultant Lyle Hanna briefed a few members of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System board of regents last week on his comprehensive review of President Jay Box’s pay. Hanna’s review, funded by KCTCS, found Box’s compensation is very close to the average of his peers:

“Amazingly,” Hanna said, “right on the target.”

In hitting that target, though, Hanna relied on flawed information, including a cherry-picked group of peers and data that doesn’t exist yet.

St. Catharine College To Close At End Of July

Jun 1, 2016
St. Catherine College

Officials from St. Catharine College announced Wednesday that the school will shutter its doors next month.

According to a news release, following recent meetings of the board of trustees, chairman John Turner told faculty and staff of the planned closure at a campus-wide meeting on Wednesday.

“It is with great sadness that I announce today, after exploring all possible options, the board of trustees has determined the challenges facing St. Catharine College are insurmountable and we will be closing the college at the end of July,” Turner said.

Turner said a decline in overall enrollment and the federal Department of Education’s admitted wrongful withholding of student aid has proven to be too difficult to manage along with the college’s debts.

The school says the debt Turner referenced was due to the construction of new facilities, including residence halls, a health sciences building and a library.

EKU Closing Campus in Somerset

May 30, 2016
EKU-Somerset Campus

Eastern Kentucky University is closing a satellite campus in Somerset.

Media outlets report the university announced in a news release that the 5,000-square-foot office will close on June 30 due to state budget cuts.

EKU faces a 4.5 percent reduction in state support for each of the next two fiscal years. The news release says EKU also has an estimated $8 million in additional costs for mandated retirement contributions and other needs.

One class at the Somerset branch is scheduled to finish in June. No other classes are scheduled during the summer.

Regional campuses in Corbin, Danville and Manchester are unaffected by the decision.

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.

Alix Mattingly, WFPL News

News of the $815,741 paid last year to retired Kentucky Community & Technical College System President Michael McCall has drawn expressions of outrage from lawmakers, college employees, citizens and the state’s secretary of education.

Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration said Thursday it will conduct a comprehensive review of KCTCS, which announced the elimination of 506 jobs earlier this week. The review will be done by the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet under Secretary Hal Heiner and the state’s Council on Postsecondary Education.

As reported Thursday by WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, McCall retired Jan. 15, 2015, but was given a consulting contract that paid him $300,965 till year-end. KCTCS also gave him $352,066 for 261 unused vacation days and a $124,249 deferred incentive payout.

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

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.

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.”

WKU

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.

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