Campus News

UK Invests: A first-of-its-kind initiative to enhance student financial wellness

Photo of Student in Class
This first-of-its-kind program sets UK apart from other colleges and universities by teaching real-world situations to demonstrate the benefits of saving and investing early. Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 14, 2022) — At the University of Kentucky, we are dedicated to upholding a powerful promise — to prepare students to lead lives of meaning and purpose.  

Part of that commitment is empowering and encouraging students to understand the importance of investing in themselves and their future.  

This week, UK officials announced that the institution is embarking on a foundational approach to help students — and, by extension, Kentucky — become healthier, wealthier and wiser.

Students will have the opportunity to achieve financial awareness, education and security through a holistic wellness initiative — UK Invests

“At the University of Kentucky, we believe education is transformative. We’re adding another dimension to this transformative experience,” UK President Eli Capilouto said. “The power of saving a little today — and compounding interest over a lifetime — is undeniable. UK Invests is the next step in what has been a long-term commitment we have made to the success of our students.” 

Through this initiative, all UK students (undergraduate, graduate and professional) will deepen their understanding of financial wellness, practice investing and receive monetary rewards for institution-identified healthy behaviors.  

Personal investment accounts will be used to incentivize behaviors and habits beginning with financial education and expanding to include other wellness initiatives. 

The voluntary account will be matched in part by investments from the university. In the first year of the program, UK will invest $1 million — entirely through private and philanthropic support. 

“This is the next step in our plan to support the holistic health and wellness of our students,” J. Kirsten Turner, UK’s vice president for student success, said. "To that end, UK Invests is a program that will encourage students to hardwire their habits around healthy behaviors: financial wellness, community and belonging, mental and physical well-being, and intellectual and skill development.”  

This first-of-its-kind program sets UK apart from other colleges and universities by teaching real-world situations to demonstrate the benefits of saving and investing early.  

Students will build a foundation of financial literacy — allowing them to achieve greater financial security, career readiness and well-being. 

“This micro investment strategy will produce macro change. We’re investing in our students now because we believe so much in the value and power of their degree and educational experience at UK,” Eric N. Monday, UK’s executive vice president for finance and administration, said.

UK Invests will be implemented in phases.

  • Beginning this fall, UK’s 589 student-athletes will be given the opportunity to learn more about saving and investing — coinciding with a UK Athletics initiative providing them with additional financial rewards for academic achievements. 
  • Once earned, student-athletes will receive educational achievement awards in increments through the fall and spring semesters. UK also will provide an optional investment account opportunity for the student-athlete.  
  • UK Invests exists in partnership with Fidelity Investments and its Fidelity Bloom UK Invests app — ensuring our students will reap a lifetime of benefits for themselves, their families and their communities. 
  • Later this fall, the university will begin expanding the program to include cohorts of students across campus.  
  • In the spring, UK Invests will be offered to prospective students who enroll.  
  • In the fall of 2023, all students will have the opportunity to open personal investment accounts. Ultimately, the university also will work to open these opportunities to employees as well.

The idea is to provide micro-incentives to encourage healthy behaviors, as well as investing and saving. Students could receive incentives in their accounts, for example, for wellness or gym visits. 

The idea is to hard-wire healthy habits as part of the university’s overall approach to wellness. After all, the dimensions of wellness — financial, physical and mental health, well-being, a sense of community and belonging and intellectual and skill development — can be, and often are, interrelated.

“We are proud that UK Invests is beginning within UK Athletics as part of our academic achievement awards distribution. The success of UK Invests will not be measured by how many students or student-athletes open investment accounts. Instead, success will be measured by knowing that our student athletes — all 589 of them — have been equipped with the knowledge to improve their futures,” said Mitch Barnhart, director of UK Athletics. “The bold, new step announced today is an exciting opportunity to provide our student-athletes with academic achievement awards and show them how those awards can become so much more.” 

The UK Invests program is the next phase in the university’s holistic approach to both affordability and access as well as student wellness.

  • UK’s rolling average increase in tuition and mandatory fees for the last four years is now 1.6%; a decade ago that average increase was nearly 6%.
  • Over the last several years, the university has nearly tripled the amount of financial aid to students, which doesn’t have to be repaid, to more than $160 million this academic year.
  • UK attacked student debt and unmet financial need through the nationally heralded, UK LEADS program.
  • The university also significantly expanded the technological support. Under a Smart Campus initiative, UK has provided every incoming student for the past four years with an iPad and other tools to enhance learning.

“We can say we’re going to put students first, but by stepping forward in this way, we do put students first,” Capilouto said. “We believe in them, their future and what it can mean for Kentucky.” 

More information about UK Invests can be found here

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $501 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.