The Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents held a regular meeting Tuesday, June 18, at the EKU Center for the Arts. The Board approved a $351.3 million budget for 2019-2020 with a focus on investing in improvements to academic programs, facility renovations, technology upgrades and other operational efficiencies.
High-demand programs such as aviation, as well as online programs in business, criminal justice and social work, were recommended for additional investment.
Several classroom buildings are slated to receive renovations supported by the previously approved asset preservation fee. The buildings include Burrier, Combs, Memorial Science, Wallace and Whalin. Telford residence hall will undergo significant repairs while offline for this academic year. The final new construction project in the campus revitalization, an expanded, state-of-the art recreation center, is on schedule to be complete in fall 2019. The renovated Powell Student Center is scheduled to open in time for the spring 2020 semester.
In his report to the Board, EKU President Michael Benson acknowledged the University’s commitment to seeing these campus improvements through to completion.
“These construction projects will make a big difference to improve our teaching and campus spaces,” he said. “We are taking this very seriously, utilizing the asset preservation fund and the investments from students for these facilities.”
Planned upgrades to technology systems for purchasing and enrollment management will offer increased efficiencies and an improved customer service experience for prospective and admitted students. The approved budget also provides increases for promotion in faculty ranks.
EKU Board of Regents Chair Lewis Diaz commented on the year ahead for EKU seeking a focus on collaboration with “partnerships between the academic space, the administrative space and across campus.”
“Staff, faculty, everyone, we all have to work together to leverage the resources we have to serve the Commonwealth and to serve the students,” he said.
The Board also heard a student success report detailing continued improvement in graduation rates and degree attainment. EKU’s five-year graduation rate has increased nearly five points to a record 50.3 percent for the 2014 freshmen cohort compared to 45.6 for 2013. The most recent four-year graduation rate increased from 32.7 for the 2014 cohort to 36.85 for 2015, also a record high. Another point of distinction is a new record in total degrees awarded at EKU. The most recent commencements pushed the total to 4,154 for the 2018-2019 academic year, up from 3,884 in 2017-2018 and marking considerable growth compared to 3,100 degrees awarded in 2010-2011.
The Board acknowledged the service of two Regents who attended their last meeting. Recent EKU pre-law graduate and former SGA President Ryan Wiggins ends his term as the elected student regent June 30. Wiggins was commended for representing the student body and wished well as he furthers his education at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law.
Regent Holly Wiedemann, founder and president of AU Associates Inc. of Lexington, completed her term with the Board, serving since January 2014. A resolution honoring Wiedemann recognized her contributions as a regent who “demonstrated a sensitivity to student concerns, exhibited support of access to educational opportunity and had a strong commitment to improved opportunities for all students, faculty and staff.”
In other business, the Board:
- Heard an update on improvements at Model Laboratory School and adopted comprehensive administrative policies.
- Approved new Department of Government graduate certificates in community development and interdisciplinary studies; a School of Psychology graduate certificate in applied behavior analysis; and a Department of Mathematics & Statistics undergraduate certificate in applied data science.
- Revised the Board bylaws, updating the current committee structure.
EKU’s next regular Board of Regents meeting is scheduled for August 29, 2019 at 12:30 p.m. in O'Donnell Auditorium, Whitlock Building. This is a date change from the original meeting scheduled for September 17 due to the scheduling of the Governor’s Higher Education Summit September 16-17.