Student recruitment, enrollment and the University strategic plan dominated discussion at the Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents regular quarterly meeting held Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 in the Whitlock Building.
As of Aug. 8, 2019, 2,457 freshmen were enrolled, consistent with the size of the freshman class in recent years. The enrollment number will not be made official until October. According to Dr. Palka’s report, 87 percent of incoming freshmen are Kentucky residents, and more than 75 percent live on campus. Seventy-two percent of freshmen are taking 15 or more credit hours in their first semester, a practice that will enable them to graduate in four years or less.
EKU’s 2019 freshman class also represents an increasingly diverse student body. Dr. Eugene Palka, vice president for student success, shared data showing more minority students are enrolled at the university than last year, and more than half of EKU’s students now qualify for merit scholarships, up 12 percentage points from last year.
The university’s strategic plan, entitled “Make No Little Plans: A Vision for 2020,” was extended to 2022 by the board. The proposal, presented by Dr. Tanlee Wasson, assistant vice president, Institutional Effectiveness & Research, received unanimous approval.
The goals in the current plan still have strategic purpose and continue to push the University toward greater focus on student success, academic excellence and good stewardship. While budget pressures have impacted the execution of some strategies outlined in the plan, the extension through 2022 will allow the plan to come into alignment with accreditation cycles, and allows more time to implement proposed initiatives.
Wasson said the plan’s number one goal is improving and investing in academic excellence, promoting innovative instruction and strengthening academic programs.
“If you look at all the investments we’ve put into helping faculty become innovative and better teachers in the classroom for our students, it’s well over 10,000 hours of strategic pedagogy growth and development,” Wasson said.
Other goals include: strategic investment to student success, a refocused strategic enrollment plan and innovative practices for improvement of retention and graduation rates; institutional distinction, which includes investing in staff and advancing the EKU brand, and increasing the university’s financial strength.
As part of the new recruiting plan, Wasson said EKU President Michael Benson will go on the road to a significant number of strategic partner K-12 schools to recruit for the university and share a message about the value of higher education.
As part of the recruiting plan, the university plans to have greater visibility in high schools and use strategic branding in those schools to ensure students know about the great programs, faculty and student life experiences EKU has to offer.
EKU’s Director of Government and Community Relations, Ethan Witt, presented the results of the Kentucky legislature’s passage of House Bill 1 in the extraordinary session in July, and the impacts on the university. The bill will allow several of the state’s regional universities, including EKU, and more than 100 quasi-governmental agencies to possibly cease participation in the Kentucky Employees Retirement System and put its KERS employees in an alternate retirement system.
President Michael Benson said he is planning to meet with other university presidents in the coming weeks to potentially work on a unified plan, which could result in universities collaborating to have a financial analysis done of the options provided to universities and quasi-governmental agencies by HB1.
News from the committee reports:
● New student regent Madison Lipscomb was sworn in by State Rep. Deanna Frazier (R-Richmond)
● Enrolled latino students are up to nearly 500 at EKU, with 104 new freshmen on campus for fall 2019
● The Diversity and Inclusion Committee heard data reflecting year over year increases of enrolled latino students to EKU, the committee also heard a report on the newly formed President’s Inclusive Excellence Advisory Council.
● More than 1,000 student volunteers and more than 150 staff, faculty and alumni volunteers helped on Big E move in day, including student athletes, band members, cheerleaders, student government leaders and others
● NCAA certified the official 86 percent graduation rate for EKU student athletes
● 15 straight semesters for student athletes to have above a 3.0 GPA
● Spring 2019 All Student-Athletes GPA – 3.131 (second highest overall student-athlete GPA of all time)
● Compliance program began in early 2015 has had approximately 50 reports since March 2015, approximately 11 reports/year
● The board approved the sale of an easement to the Richmond Utilities along the Tudor Property on Lancaster Avenue
● Dr. Allen Engle, Sr. was honored, along with his father and grandfather for three generations of service to EKU
The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on November 19, 2019.