The Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents, acting on a recommendation from President Michael Benson, has unanimously approved a tuition freeze for the 2018-19 academic year.
In a recent email to campus about the tuition freeze, Benson said: “Holding tuition steady for the next year is our way of telling students and their families, ‘We hear you.’ It is a small first step, but an important one, in our quest to provide value to students and a qualified workforce for the Commonwealth. Moving forward, we will continue to develop and define the EKU Advantage, with a focus on preserving for future generations what has always been an affordable and unsurpassed educational experience.”
Noting the excitement among current students about the freeze, Student Regent Laura Jackson called the freeze a “recruitment tool” and predicted it would improve retention rates.
“I can’t divine the future,” Benson said at the meeting, “but this is a calculated, informed risk that we’ve got to take.”
Board Chair Craig Turner said he hopes the tuition freeze is a “game-changer.”
EKU’s current tuition ranks in the middle of the pack among Kentucky’s public universities.
Meeting in regular session on Wednesday, Nov. 15, at Model Laboratory School, the board also unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the EKU administration to proceed with filing a charter application for the establishment of a “university charter school” on the Richmond campus. The resolution stemmed from recent discussions among stakeholders about the future of Model, the Commonwealth’s first and only remaining laboratory school.
The resolution concerning the charter school application notes that the University “still strives to stay on the cutting edge of new, innovative and more flexible ways to deliver the quality of education and educational leadership for which Model Laboratory School and Eastern Kentucky University have become known.” It adds that the administration will “work to preserve the long-term viability of services provided to the students at Model.”
Discussions will continue as the University, according to the resolution, solicits the guidance of its College of Education and other industry professionals, “with the goal of creating a scalable model university charter school for the Commonwealth.”
A task force to study options for the school and engage a wide range of stakeholders was composed of Dr. David McFaddin, vice president for the Office of Engagement, Regional Stewardship and Government Relations; Dr. Tanlee Wasson, assistant vice president for institutional research and effectiveness; and Dr. Ann Burns, director of the Office of Clinical Experiences in EKU’s College of Education.
“There will be a lot of conversation moving forward to determine what is in the best interest of Model Laboratory School, its students and the continued partnership with Eastern Kentucky University,” McFaddin said. “The Board recognizes there is great concern over the ability to allow current Model students to continue their education at the school they know and love, and any viable options will require consideration to accommodate existing students. We have a lot to explore in the weeks and months ahead.”
In other business, the board:
· approved a 3.5 percent increase in meal plan costs, as well as a 3 percent increase in housing costs.
· heard presentations from Model Lab administrators Dr. Eric Parker, Laura Dedic and Carrie Ballinger about scholastic superlatives at the school.
· heard reports from Dr. Gene Palka, vice president for student success, and Dr. Brett Morris, executive director of enrollment management. Palka noted that four- , five- and six-year graduation rates are at all-time highs, with the four-year rate having doubled in the last eight years. The University’s fall enrollment declined slightly from a year ago, but remains at a near-record high at 16,644. As Morris noted, the academic readiness of EKU students continues to improve, with the number of freshmen who scored 30-36 on their ACT tests doubling since 2014. The EKU student body is also growing increasingly diverse.
· accepted an audit by Crowe Horwath that found “nothing of significant concern.”
· agreed it would hold its next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6, in Frankfort, in conjunction with the annual Colonels at the Capitol Day.