Higher Education

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.”

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.

WKU

Western Kentucky University is one step closer to hiring an executive search firm to look for the school’s next president.

The Board of Regents on Friday approved a motion to award a bid to the Boston-based firm Isaacson, Miller.

Dr. Phillip Bale of Glasgow, the chairman of the WKU presidential search committee, said the committee was impressed with the recent track record of Isaacson, Miller.

“They’ve done many presidential searches within the last few years. They’ve done the presidential searches for Vanderbilt, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Illinois, just to name a few.”

The proposed contract with the firm has to be approved by the state next month.

WKU

The faculty and staff at Western Kentucky University are being asked to give input related to the search for the school’s next president.

A forum for faculty is being held Friday afternoon, April 15,  on campus, and staff members are invited to a forum Friday, April 22.

WKU President Gary Ransdell has announced he’ll retire at the end of June 2017.

Doctor Phillip Bale of Glasgow, chair of the presidential search committee, says the early announcement by Ransdell gives the committee ample time to do a thorough job.

“I envision the next several months will be spent mainly developing our position profile—that is, what sort of skill set and what sort of attributes do we want the next president to have,” Dr. Bale said.

Ransdell will have served as WKU president for 20 years when he steps down.

Creative Commons

The number of high school seniors in the state going on to pursue bachelor’s and associate’s degrees has remained steady, according to two new reports from the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics.

The “Kentucky High School Feedback Report on College Going” and the “Kentucky High School Feedback Report on College Success” show that six in 10 graduates of public high schools in the state in 2014 enrolled in college and scored as being better-prepared for college courses. The figure was virtually identical in 2013.

Of those 2014 graduates, more than 50 percent were pursuing a bachelor’s degree and about 36 percent were seeking an associate’s degree.

Both the highest and lowest percentage of high school graduates attending college can be found in Jefferson County.

Dupont Manual High School has the highest percentage at 92 percent, while Valley Traditional High School has the lowest percentage at 33.9 percent.

WKU

Kentucky’s higher education institutions would compete for a portion of their state funding under the Senate’s budget proposal, which will be fully unveiled later this week.

The competition would be based on degrees produced, graduation rates, retention rates and closing “achievement gaps” among low-income students and underrepresented minorities.

“Whoever’s excelling deserves to be rewarded,” said Sen. David Givens, a Greensburg Republican and main architect of the policy, which he said would go into effect in 2018.

Schools would be separated into three tiers and compete for about 25 percent of their state funding.

The University of Kentucky and University of Louisville would compete in the first tier. The second tier would include the five regional universities: Eastern Kentucky, Western Kentucky, Northern Kentucky, Morehead State University and Murray State.

KCTCS

Kentucky’s improving economy is driving steep declines in community college enrollment, but the head of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System says those schools are not losing their relevance.  In an interview with WKU Public Radio, Dr. Jay Box said community colleges remain key in building a stronger workforce which translates into a stronger middle class.

Box:  We are the primary provider of workforce education and training in all states and we realize the jobs that our graduates get are those middle class jobs, the jobs that are so important in our economy.

Autry:  You were recently appointed to a national community college board called Reclaiming America’s Middle Class.  One of its missions is to promote community colleges and the role they play in serving students, whether right out of high school or adult learners who perhaps are coming from jobs into the classroom.  Talk about some of the priorities of this national board.

WKU

Governor Matt Bevin wants to influence any performance-based funding model used by Kentucky universities.

The leaders of the state’s public schools and the Council on Postsecondary Education have been working for 18 months on a proposed formula for any new funding they receive.

But not only are universities not in line to receive new funding in the next state budget, they’re facing significant cuts.

Western Kentucky University Vice President of Public Affairs Robbin Taylor says Bevin has indicated he wants any such model to be based largely on how well schools help address workforce development needs.

Taylor says she thinks schools now have to re-evaluate what they’ve been working on.

"I don't want to say this negates all that, but it sort of puts all that on hold. As the Governor has indicated, he didn't think it went far enough, and he'd like to be a part of making those decisions, and has indicated his desire to work with the university presidents and the Council on Postsecondary Education to come up with those measures."

WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell announced at Friday's Board of Regents meeting in Elizabethtown that he is retiring effective June 30, 2017.

He said he wanted to give the school ample time to find a successor. He will have served as WKU President for 20 years by the time he leaves the post.

Ransdell said picking the right time to step aside has been something he and his wife, Julie, have been discussing for a while.

"We want to do this on our terms, and this has been an incredible 19 years so far, and will be an incredible 20 years," Ransdell told WKU Public radio.  "We just felt like our health is good and I've seen so many people in this job retire and not have the best of circumstances with their health."

In an email to faculty and staff,   Ransdell said he believes he has fulfilled the commitment he made in 1997 to transform the university. 

"WKU is a dramatically different institution today than it was 20 years ago – financially, physically, intellectually and attitudinally.  Serving my alma mater has been a dream come true," said Ransdell.

WKU

Kentucky state universities have endured regular budget cuts for years, and they’ve offset the losses in part with tuition increases.

A Republican state senator wants to stop the latter.

State Sen. Dan Seum, a Louisville Republican, is proposing a freeze on state universities’ tuition rates. He said state universities have increased their tuition at a rate that outstrips cuts to higher education.

“We cut their budget by $165 million, they increased it on the backs of these kids to the tune of $582 million,” Seum said. “I think the universities have seen these kids as nothing more than a cash cow.”

According to a 2015 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Kentucky has cut higher education spending per-student at the highest rate in the U.S.

At the same time, tuition has increased at Kentucky’s public universities at a clip higher than 45 other states’ higher education systems.

Tuition increases must be approved by the state’s Council on Postsecondary Education. Last year, the board approved a 3 percent hike for the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville. Both schools were granted a 5 percent tuition increase the previous year.

Tuition is only allowed to increase by 8 percent every two years.

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.

KCTCS

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

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:

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