Higher Education


The Trump Administration this week announced international students holding F-1 visas would have to return to their home countries if they do not attend in-person classes this fall.

The move took many in higher education by surprise, including Western Kentucky University Associate Provost for Global Learning and International Affairs, John Sunnygard.

In an interview with WKU Public Radio, Sunnygard discussed how he found out about the change.


Kentucky’s public universities and colleges suffered a $145 million hit from coronavirus-related expenses and declining revenues, a top state education official said Wednesday.

The financial loss represents 17% of the money state lawmakers put towards funding higher education during the budget for the last fiscal year, which ended on June 30.

Aaron Thompson, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education predicted during a legislative hearing on Wednesday that enrollment and revenue from events and tuition will continue to be down in the coming academic year.


The Board of Regents at Western Kentucky University has passed a budget that trims $27 million in costs, amid uncertainty from the coronavirus.

WKU is expecting its largest freshman class in 18 years this fall, which would have helped offset an overall decline in enrollment and tuition, but the school had to make further budget adjustments once the pandemic hit in March.

The 2020-21 budget approved in a special called meeting on Friday includes salary reductions for faculty and staff earning more than $50,000 annually, as well as freezes on travel and hiring.  The budget of more than $353 million represents a nine percent decline over the previous spending plan.


Western Kentucky University will not use faculty and staff salary reductions to balance its budget for the 2021 fiscal year. 

The decision was announced Friday morning during the Board of Regents quarterly meeting.

The reversal comes a week after the university sent a campus email identifying $2.4 million in savings through tiered salary reductions ranging from 2.5 to 10 percent. 

The pay cuts would have taken effect on July 1. WKU President Timothy Caboni said the university will look for other ways to cut $27 million from its budget, the result of uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and a projected decline in state funding.


The president of Western Kentucky University says the school will host students back on campus this fall.

The university suspended in-person classes and sent most students home from on-campus housing midway through the current spring semester as part of its COVID-19 response plan.

Speaking with the school's staff senate this week, WKU President Timothy Caboni said, while the school does plan to resume in-person instruction, any return to the hill will take place based on meeting benchmarks from the federal and state government, as well as the Centers for Disease Control.


A new report shows Kentucky is on pace to meet a goal of having at least 60% percent of the state’s working age population with a postsecondary degree by 2030.

Figures released this week by the Council on Postsecondary Education show nearly 47% of Kentucky adults have a credential from a college or university. That's a 4.5% increase since 2014.

Virtually all of that growth came from short-term certificates awarded by the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. The number of degrees awarded by the state’s four-year schools was essentially flat.

CPE President Aaron Thompson says the state needs to get more KCTCS graduates to continue their education.

So far just a few U.S. higher education students have confirmed exposure to COVID-19, mainly through contact with patients in hospitals.

Becca Schimmel

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s budget doesn’t include any additional money for the state’s performance-based funding model for higher education.

The Council on Postsecondary Education says it needs more money in order to continue implementing the state’s performance-based funding model. 

The performance-based funding model is designed to reward colleges and universities for increasing the number of degrees earned. 

Lindsey Wilson College

A collaboration of Kentucky colleges is adding a fifth member. 

The collaboration that launched with the fall semester of 2019 is called the University Center of Southern Kentucky. It's based at Somerset Community College.

The newest partner is Lindsey Wilson College. The founding partners are Eastern Kentucky University, Morehead State, University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University.

The collaboration gives students the opportunity to complete an associate’s degree at Somerset Community College and then earn a four-year degree through one of the partner colleges. 


The Director of Admissions at Western Kentucky University says colleges are having to rethink their approach to attracting prospective students.  Jace Lux points to a recent Gallup poll showing a significant decrease in the perceived value of a college education among young adults.

"Whereas we used to be able to start a conversation with students and families about why they should choose WKU, now we're really having to back that conversation up and start with all of  the reaons why they should go to college in the first place," Lux said. 


U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky wants to combat the rising debt load of many college students by allowing families to use retirement savings to pay off their loans.

The Bowling Green Republican is sponsoring legislation that would let students dip into retirement accounts to help pay college tuition or make monthly debt payments. Individuals could take up to $5,250 each year from their 401(k) or IRA, tax and penalty free, and their parents could divert thousands of dollars more.

Paul’s bill is called the Higher Education Loan Repayment and Enhanced Retirement Act, or HELPER


While many states are still struggling to fully restore funding for public universities and community colleges since 2008, Kentucky is falling even farther behind. The state’s funding for higher education has fallen by more than a quarter since just before the recession, after adjusting for inflation.

new report from the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington D.C. compared the amount state governments have spent on higher education per student in the past decade. When adjusting for inflation, the report found Kentucky spent $2,792 less per student in 2018 compared to 2008. The average cut to state funding for higher education nationwide for the same time period was $1,220.



Western Kentucky University is doing away with the ACT as a factor in most scholarships for incoming freshmen, and will instead focus on high school grades. 

“It means that we’re going to place the emphasis on performance over four years of high school, instead of one day of testing," WKU President Timothy Caboni said in announcing the changes Tuesday. 

"And we also are going to reduce the GPA requirement to be eligible for those scholarships from a 3.3 down to a 3.0, and we’re increasing that minimum scholarship by $1,000,” said Caboni.

Indiana Tech

Indiana Tech is expanding its presence in Kentucky by opening a campus in Bowling Green. 

The school has a traditional campus in Fort Wayne, along with 18 other locations that primarily serve working adults. 

“The difference between us and other schools, is that even if they’re online students, we like to have people face to face to offer various types of support from admissions to tutoring to helping them with registration," said VP for Enrollment Management Steve Herendeen.

Somerset Community College

Western Kentucky University and Somerset Community College formally signed an agreement Thursday that will lead to expanded degree offerings in Pulaski County.

The partnership will allow WKU to offer bachelor’s degrees through SCC, a two-year college. The aim is to increase access for Pulaski County-area students with work or family obligations who need to remain in the region.

SCC President Carey Castle said increasing local college degree holders will have a wide-ranging impact.

“I was in a meeting this morning with Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority, and those industry individuals are just looking forward to this opportunity to get university graduates in the area.”