There is an important conversation happening on the University of Kentucky campus: a conversation about our future. We call this initiative Our Path Forward.
It is a conversation about how we move forward, together, to meet the priorities outlined in our strategic plan, while responding to the financial constraints and realities we face today.
We have ambitious goals – recruiting, retaining and graduating more students; conducting research and providing health care that changes our state; and compensating our faculty and staff in ways that ensure that we retain and compete for the best teachers, scholars and all those who support our students and their success.
Meeting those goals is our mission as Kentucky’s indispensable institution.
Over the last year, at the direction of President Capilouto, Provost Blackwell and I have been working with talented individuals across our campus to guide these dialogues and develop next steps in our financial future.
To that end, implementation teams have been focused on the first phase of innovative strategies to increase revenue and efficiently and effectively deliver on our multi-faceted mission of teaching, research, service, and health care.
Phase One initiatives focus on six areas for success: full-time, first year enrollment; retention; UK Online; summer enrollment growth; procure-to-pay; and a carbon reduction program. Already, these priority areas are gaining important recognition for their creativity and the new opportunities they will create for our campus.
Enrollment, retention and student success are fundamental goals for the University’s strategic plan.
While our doors remain open widest for Kentucky students, enrollment management leaders are working to expand into seven new and targeted out-of-state markets to meet our goals. Enrollment is only the first step. We must also ensure a path to the successful completion of a college degree to prepare our students for what President Capilouto calls, “lives of meaning and purpose.” We want to prepare them to succeed in the work place and in their communities.
To improve retention, several initiatives are underway or under development. We are in the third year of UK’s Leveraging Economic Affordability for Developing Success (UK LEADS) pilot project, and we recently launched the UK Bridge Program.
Last semester we launched UK Online – an expanded and more strategic approach to online education. In fact, in the coming month, we will be taking more than two dozen new online programs to our Board of Trustees for its consideration.
Our rapid progress in this effort would not be possible without the collaboration of academic leadership, colleges and departments across campus, and the University Senate and Senate Council.
We also recognize that we have untapped opportunity to provide summer coursework for currently enrolled students and those who may be enrolled elsewhere but are returning home for the summer. Two teams are looking at new opportunities to support on-campus and online summer course options to help students expedite or get an early start on their degree programs.
Still, there is more we can do to help others achieve the dream of a college degree.
Nearly 500,000 Kentuckians across the Commonwealth have more than 100 credit hours that may count toward a degree, but, for a number of reasons, did not complete their coursework.
In response, we’ve developed completer programs through Project Graduate to help students cross the finish line. Degree audits are underway for more than 600 prospective Project Graduate students who are candidates for degree completion via the Bachelor of Liberal Studies Degree. Upon completion of 140 degree-audits, 37 candidates are already deemed eligible to graduate.
In addition to serving more students on their path to a degree, we are looking internally at new opportunities for efficiency. The University’s procurement office is revamping its approach to our procurement and purchasing systems. Though research and analysis are still underway, we are projecting that a new system will be in place by summer 2020.
The final component of Phase One is the Carbon Reduction Program. Based on the result of a carbon inventory of Robinson Forest in southeastern Kentucky, we believe that millions of dollars in new revenues can be generated over the next 10 years. The idea is to sell carbon credits to the National Conservancy as part of their efforts in the area of environmental sustainability.
We would use the proceeds to improve infrastructure in this important research forest as well as continue to invest in needs such as community health in Appalachia.
While ambitious and far-reaching, these efforts underway represent only the first phase of
Phase Two planning teams are working to identify the next series of implementation strategies for our campus-wide initiatives. Updates on our progress and those responsible for leading this work can be found at http://www.uky.edu/sotu/ourpathforward. The website also provides a portal to gain feedback from across campus, and we encourage anyone who has a great idea to come forward.
This effort is a collective one across our campus. Its success, ultimately, will only be possible through the collaboration and creativity that we find across our campus. Thank you for your support in our mission.
We look forward to sharing more throughout the semester.
Eric N. Monday