The Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents approved a $379.5 million budget for the 2022 fiscal year at its June 17 meeting. Among the largest in new investments to promote college affordability, access and success for students is nearly $6 million set aside to fund the EKU BookSmart program. For the first time in the institution’s history, new and returning EKU undergraduates will receive all textbooks and required course materials available for the first day of fall semester classes in August at no additional cost to students.
An investment of $4.9 million will reallocate funding for additional 2021-22 scholarships. New 2022 fiscal year investments also offer increased support for eCampus programs, employee base salary increases, faculty promotions, a Center for STEM Excellence, student athletic opportunities, a new “one-stop-shop” and a call center for centralized student support services and additional diversity, equity and inclusion resources. Many of the budget priorities reflect areas of need as EKU progresses beyond the pandemic.
“With adversity and challenge come opportunities for growth, reassessment and change,” said EKU President Dr. David McFaddin. “In the first year of my presidency, we made an emergency move to online classes, instituted a number of health and safety measures, and saw our normal operations altered in unimaginable ways. We are now entering the other side of that time and now is the opportunity to chart our course as an institution moving forward,” McFaddin said.
As students return to in-person classes at pre-pandemic attendance levels this fall, they’ll also be welcomed with a transformed event and program schedule called the “Exceptional Eastern Experience” or “E3”. The Board heard a summary of the E3 lineup, including the “Big E Welcome” kicking off for the Class of 2025 in early August. The E3 schedule also includes music and comedy acts, Center for the Arts performances, enhanced EKU Athletics game day activities, holiday festivals, and food truck events.
With most COVID-19 restrictions now lifted, McFaddin envisions the E3 programming to be the “next normal” on campus to reintroduce students to campus life.
“We must not return to normal, but create new, amazing, student-focused experiences across the school year on our campus,” McFaddin said. “We want to provide opportunities for engagement, entertainment, and mesh together our student-athlete experiences with events where the whole campus can participate.”
Board of Regents Chairman Lewis Diaz remarked on how the University budget and programming plans coincide with the vision of how EKU seeks to position the institution and prepare students for the future.
“As we look forward, we do so with a sense that society is ripe for a renaissance and we want to be in the middle of it through education, the free flow of ideas, the exchange of thoughtful debate, the pursuit of innovation and entrepreneurialism and the creation of unique experiences that distinguish EKU from its peers,” said Diaz.
Dr. Tanlee Wasson, senior vice president for student success, engagement and opportunity, updated the regents on continued recruiting and scholarship availability for the upcoming academic year. With a delayed recruitment cycle following the uncertainty of the pandemic, applications are still being accepted through the summer, scholarship deadlines have been extended and merit awards are still available to qualifying students. In-person and virtual student orientations for the incoming freshmen class are ongoing and will focus on seeing students through to the completion of fall registration.
Matt Roan, vice president for athletics and campus recreation, updated the board with highlights for athletic teams and recreation programming. Among key 2020-21 achievements include a spring average GPA of 3.112 for student-athletes, and the 19th semester that teams have achieved above a 3.0. Roan also recognized 2021 championship titles for EKU’s Softball team (OVC Champions) and EKU Cheerleading (All-Girl/Coed UCA National Champions). Athletic gifts and revenue have increased for the fiscal year and season ticket sales are tracking to meet goals as athletic venues return to full capacity. He announced a community launch event on July 1, recognizing the EKU Athletics transition to the ASUN athletic conference.
The board set 2021-22 tuition, housing, dining and fee rates. EKU followed the Council for Postsecondary Education (CPE) parameters and limited a 2021-22 tuition increase to two percent or $8 per credit hour ($93 per semester for a full-time, in-state, undergraduate student). University housing and dining rates will increase in aggregate by about two percent for housing; and about 1.2 percent for dining per contractual requirements. Even with these modest increases, EKU’s overall cost of attendance will still decrease with the removal of textbook costs averaging $1,200 a year that will now be covered through the BookSmart program.
Two newly elected regents were sworn in at the meeting. New staff regent Jeremiah Duerson and student regent Jenna Smith will begin their terms effective July 1.
Resolutions were presented honoring outgoing student regent Eyouel Mekonnen and 1986 EKU graduate Lisa Simpson, CPA, for her work to support national COVID-19 relief programs and testimony before Congress regarding the Paycheck Protection Program.
The board also passed two surprise resolutions under “new business,” thanking regent Nancy Collins as she ends twelve years of service to the board, and honoring retiring provost Dr. Jerry Pogatshnik, who will retire after fifteen years at EKU on June 30.
In additional agenda items:
Board Innovation funding was awarded for a proposal from Dr. Bethany Miller to create a “one-stop-shop” for student services including registration, records, financial aid, billing, etc.
The board approved promotions and tenure for EKU and Model Laboratory School faculty.
The board approved several program changes including the creation of a certificate in Banking and Financial Services and suspension of the MA in Personnel Services in Higher Education and BS in Geographic Information Systems.
The board authorized a bond resolution to seek funding for campus housing renovations.
The board approved the Madison County Airport Interlocal Agreement and two EKU appointees to the Madison County Airport Board.
The board heard an audit plan report from the Crowe accounting firm.
The board is next scheduled to meet September 23, 2021.