At the March Board of Trustees meeting, our Board met to consider several issues of importance to our institution -- issues that, in many cases, are a direct reflection of your tireless efforts and outstanding work.
The Board approved our proposal to limit tuition increases for next year to 3 percent for resident students and 6 percent for non-resident students. Last year, during a retreat where we discussed many of the most pressing challenges facing UK and all of higher education, this Board sent a strong signal that affordability and accessibility are major concerns for families that must be addressed.
The vote by the Board affirms our commitment to ensuring that more Kentuckians are offered affordable access to the outstanding education offered at the University of Kentucky. Modest increases for residence halls and dining plans also were approved, another signal that as an institution we are intently focused on putting students first in everything that we do.
In June, we will bring a proposed budget for the University to the Board for its consideration. That budget will include a proposal for a 5 percent merit salary pool for faculty and staff. That salary increase will be a true one as the University plans to absorb the cost of increases for the vast majority of health-care plans as well as parking.
The Board also gave formal approval to move forward with three self-financed projects that will accelerate the revitalization of our campus:
- A $65 million renovation and expansion of the Gatton College of Business and Economics, largely funded through private donations.
- A $100 million Academic Science Building, $65 million of which is being funded through an unprecedented partnership nationally with our athletics program.
- A $110 million renovation of Commonwealth Stadium and the Nutter Recruiting and Training Center. The renovation will be funded through the construction of luxury suites and club seating, for which there already is a waiting list.
I had the privilege of presenting UK’s honorees for Research Professorships for 2013-2014. Three of our four distinguished professors were in attendance along with Vice President for Research Jim Tracy. They were able to briefly talk with Board members about the nature of their research efforts. The honorees – Bernhard Hennig from the College of Agriculture; and Wolfgang Korsch, Mark Lovell and Zhongwei Shen from the College of Arts and Sciences -- work in areas as diverse and profoundly important as the impact of nutrients on human health, experimental nuclear physics, Alzheimer’s disease and pure and applied mathematics.
Their work draws national and international attention to our university. More importantly, it expands the boundaries of discovery in ways that promise to change communities and the lives of our students, who we want to shape the future.
Finally, I gave Board members a report about the momentum that is clearly building around the academic quality at UK. The 71 National Merit/National Achievement Scholars that came to UK this past fall place us 11th among public institutions in the country. And our effort to expand our Honors program to more of our outstanding students is reaping dividends.
This year, we plan to have 450 students in the Honors Program. We had more than 2,400 students apply for those spots. The pool of students attracted to UK -- and the opportunity to work with our stellar faculty -- is outstanding as well. Those who applied include 15 students with a perfect ACT score and one more with a perfect SAT score. The average ACT score for those admitted was a 32.
They want to come to UK because of you and because of your efforts -- in the classrooms and research labs across our campus. Now, we also -- through your efficiency and commitment to earning our way forward -- are moving forward with a transformation of our campus core that aims to create an infrastructure for learning and research as good as our people.
Thank you for making that progress and that potential possible.