General Assembly Makes Historic Investment at EKU

Published on October 24, 2022

By Elise Russell

Since its founding, Eastern Kentucky University has built an enduring reputation for providing opportunity for Kentuckians and generating economic growth across the Commonwealth. In fact, the majority of graduates stay in the state to work, making EKU among the top universities for Kentucky employment.

Reinforcing the role as Kentucky’s School of Opportunity, the state’s General Assembly passed a biennial budget in the spring investing in EKU’s top capital project priorities — a large-scale renovation and modernization of Alumni Coliseum, a new Model Laboratory School, and funds for deferred maintenance and asset preservation. The budget also instituted a performance-based funding model for higher education.

“We worked hard to ensure the state budget represents the values and priorities of Kentuckians. The end result is a two-year spending plan that not only meets today’s needs but also helps position our Commonwealth for future challenges and opportunities,” said Speaker of the House David Osborne. “Education and workforce development are a major priority as both play a crucial role in building a stronger Kentucky.”

EKU was the only university to receive funding for two capital projects, as well as funding in the first year of the biennium. As a result, renovation of Alumni Coliseum will begin at the conclusion of the basketball season in March and is expected to be completed fall 2024.

Of additional significance for EKU is the fact that 15 Kentucky legislators proudly carry the status of EKU Colonel. One is Jared Carpenter, ’00, senator for Madison County and part of Fayette County.

“The iconic Alumni Coliseum facility serves as a gateway to education and opportunity for people in Richmond, Berea and across Kentucky,” said Carpenter, a former Colonel basketball player. “Education and opportunity drive progress and enhance our communities. I’m proud of our work in the General Assembly to secure these critical upgrades.”

More than just an athletics venue, Alumni Coliseum represents the beginning and end of the educational journey at EKU for many students and alumni. It also hosts several large public and community events, bringing in people and revenue to the area.

Another state legislator representing Madison County, Deanna Frazier Gordon, ’91, has deep family ties to EKU. Her mother retired from the campus bookstore. Both of her sons graduated from Model Laboratory School and went to EKU; her late husband, Steven, was employed in the university’s capital planning office; and her brother was an ’85 graduate.

“As the Commonwealth’s only institution of its kind, Model Laboratory School plays an important role in education for our entire state,” said State Representative Gordon, local audiologist and award-winning businesswoman. “A new facility is a foundation for educational advancement. EKU is always top of mind for me, and I am thankful for what EKU and Model Lab mean to Richmond, Madison County and Kentucky as a whole.”

EKU’s Model Laboratory School currently serves over 700 K-12 students and provides laboratory space for innovation in education. The current facility in the Donovan Building was constructed in 1961 and recommended for demolition in 2007. The new building will promote enhanced collaboration between Model, EKU’s College of Education and Applied Human Sciences, and the Kentucky Department of Education to further improve childhood education in Kentucky.

In addition to the capital projects, the state budget includes scholarship funding for Clay County students at the EKU Manchester regional campus. “Jobs, training and education are critical for the Eastern Kentucky communities I serve,” said Senate President Robert Stivers. “Having access to education in Clay County and all of Eastern Kentucky is a key component to having a skilled workforce and economic stability. I’m always happy to help the people of this region in any way possible.”

With the building bearing the family name of Stivers, the EKU Manchester Regional Campus offers convenient educational access within EKU’s service region. Commenting on the historic nature of the legislative budget and the state’s investment in education, Amy Scarborough, EKU chief government, communications and corporate relations officer, said: “Our ability to grow as a state and attract future employers is contingent on education. We believe higher education is key to not only attracting jobs and employers but also encouraging people to continue their educational journey and keep them in Kentucky.”

“We appreciate our local legislative leaders, who worked tirelessly with us over months to secure this important funding,” said EKU President Dr. David McFaddin. “As a public institution, EKU impacts and improves the quality of life for all Kentuckians. We’re honored to serve as the School of Opportunity.”