Last week, I wrote about an important conversation occurring on our campus. It’s a conversation about our financial future—how we earn our way forward, generating the resources necessary to meet our growing obligations to students and responsibilities to the state.
Specifically, Our Path Forward is a blueprint that we are developing and implementing to address a critical financial imperative: a $200 million gap between expected revenues and anticipated needs over the next five years.
Through this plan, we seek to achieve the appropriate balance between investments in operations, human resources, capital facilities, and technology; this balance will generate the resources necessary to maintain and expand our mission of teaching, research, health care, and service.
We always need to be examining ways to operate more efficiently and effectively, reducing costs where possible. We’ve done that at UK, generating millions in savings over the last several years by reducing energy costs and becoming more efficient in how we maintain the campus, among other initiatives.
But efficiency alone won’t be enough for us to accomplish our ambitious goals – for our students or for the state we serve. We also will need to grow revenues and find innovative approaches to issues and challenges.
One such creative approach involves UK’s Robinson Forest and a program we are embarking on there that promises to both generate new revenues and is mindful of our responsibility as good environmental stewards.
Robinson Forest spans 15,000 acres across three counties in Southeastern Kentucky —Breathitt, Perry, and Knott.
Thanks to the creative thinking of the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, UK is working with The Nature Conservancy’s Working Woodlands program, which allows Eastern Kentucky landowners to certify conservation efforts of forests. The conservancy calculates how much carbon is in the forest and then helps convert it into carbon credits that can be purchased by others who want to offset pollution that may be attributed to them, according to a recent article in the Lexington Herald-Leader. You can read more about the innovative program here: www.kentucky.com/news/local/education/article203067309.html.
The effort could ultimately yield several million dollars over several years. We would use the proceeds to improve infrastructure in this important research forest as well as continuing to invest in needs such as community health in Appalachia.
The carbon reduction program is part of phase 1 for Our Path Forward.
Through Our Path Forward, we are exploring a variety of concepts as part of Phase 1 that would allow us to earn our way forward. In addition to our work in Robinson Forest, those include:
- First-time, first-year enrollment,
- Online growth,
- Summer enrollment growth,
- Project Graduate, and
Dedicated individuals across our campus are working to implement these important programs, while also envisioning new ideas for phase 2.
As such, this effort is a collective one across our campus. It’s another example of the determined and creative character that distinguishes UK. We are a place marked by hard work and compassion.
These new initiatives reflect that balance, as we ask ourselves how we can expand and enhance our impact on the Commonwealth, while also devising how we can employ our resources more efficiently and effectively.
Our success, ultimately, will only be possible through the collaboration and creativity that we find across our campus. Our Path Forward is an approach to our challenges that we can determine that future ourselves. We can find ways to do more and be more for Kentucky and all those we serve.
Thank you for your support in our mission.
Have a great week.
Eric N. Monday