Sharing our UK Story in DC

Thursday, December 8, 2016

As the flagship, land grant, University for Kentucky, we are the institution our Commonwealth has charged with confronting the most profound of challenges — in education, economic development, health care, and cultural and societal advance.

President Capilouto and I had the honor of traveling to D.C. this week to meet with various elected officials from Kentucky. We discussed our important role and the many ways their partnership helps us build a better future for our Commonwealth, together.  

In addition to meeting with our congressmen, the President and I had the chance to talk with two higher education publications: Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education. We appreciated the opportunity to have thoughtful conversations about issues in higher education, and more importantly, how we’re addressing them. Our conversations centered upon, in my mind, the most important question we ask ourselves each day: how do we help students succeed?

We know that unmet financial need is one of the biggest challenges associated with student success.

At UK, at as little as $5,000 in unmet need, retention rates drop by 8 percentage points or more.

Last year, one-third of those students who left UK had GPAs of 3.0 or higher and had on average $6,100 in unmet need. This is our challenge. For UK to truly place students at the center of everything we do, we must address it.

I was happy to discuss an initiative that will help us do so.

Over the next several years, under the UK LEADS initiative (Leveraging Economic Affordability for Developing Success), the university will move from awarding about 90 percent of its aid based on academic merit to a majority of aid being awarded based on financial need. This is part of a holistic effort to focus intentionally and comprehensively on student success at all levels.

The initiative directly aligns with the Strategic Plan, which contemplates aggressive moves in improving graduation rates to 70 percent and retention rates to 90 percent between now and 2020.

The shift in focus will begin with the fall 2017 entering class and will not impact scholarships awarded to current students.

The shift doesn’t necessarily mean that if a student was eligible for aid under a system where merit aid is the predominant award that they won’t be eligible for scholarships where need-based aid represents the majority of assistance offered.

I was proud to share with these publications and our elected officials our pride in being the University for Kentucky.

Thank you to Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Representatives Brett Guthrie, James Comer, Hal Rogers, Andy Barr, and John Yarmuth for their hospitality and intentional conversations.

Tim Tracy @UKYProvost #seeblue