Western Kentucky University

Western Kentucky University

Students at Western Kentucky University return to campus on Tuesday for the start of the spring semester, and they’re being asked to follow the same coronavirus safety measures that were in place for the fall semester. 

David Oliver, Emergency Manager at WKU, said masks, reduced class sizes and enhanced cleaning have worked well over the past several months. Oliver said the school’s COVID-19 numbers stayed relatively flat throughout the fall semester while positive cases in the community were rising.

“We didn’t have anybody who said, 'I know I got it in this classroom' or 'I know I got in from this lab','" said Oliver. "We had no cases between the health department or others that traced back to one of the academic settings.”

Salary cuts made during the COVID-19 pandemic are being restored to faculty and staff at Western Kentucky University. 

During Friday's Board of Regents meeting, WKU President Timothy Caboni thanked the campus community for making shared sacrifices.  He announced all salary reductions will end this month and employees will receive reimbursement for the amount withheld since July 1. 

The cuts were made as the school prepared for an uncertain fall semester due to the pandemic.  However, enrollment this fall exceeded projections and Caboni said the university expects no additional cuts to state funding through the end of the fiscal year.

Winifred Forrester

Sculptor Charles Forrester influenced scores of artists in his 25 years of teaching art at Western Kentucky University.  Now, the prolific sculptor is being remembered posthumously in a documentary premiering on WKU Public Television. 

Forrester's daughter Winifred Forrester has spent years curating her father's artwork and says she's eager to share his legacy.

"The old saying about the best musicians are the one's you've never heard, it applies to artists too," stated Forrester. "The best artists are the ones you've never seen their work, and I wanted to bring his work to a wider audience."

Lisa Autry

Western Kentucky University is taking another step toward increasing access and affordability for low-income students. 

President Timothy Caboni announced a new initiative on Thursday called the Hilltopper Guarantee. Starting next fall, WKU will be tuition-free to any first-year students from Kentucky who receive Pell Grants and have at least a 3.0 high school GPA.  

“This is a tremendous promise to the young people of this state, that we can guarantee if you’re from a low-income family but you’re a high achiever, a four-year degree from WKU is in your future," Caboni said.


New research shows the number of Kentucky high school students enrolling in dual credit courses has increased more than 75 percent in recent years. Higher education leaders see dual credit as an effective gateway into college.

The dual credit program allows high school students to enroll in college courses at their high school, nearby college, or online, and receive credit that counts toward high school and college completion.

A report from the Council on Postsecondary Education measured the impact of dual credit on student success at public, four-year universities.  It's the first comprehensive study since Kentucky launched a statewide dual credit policy and scholarship program in 2016 to improve participation.

Lisa Autry

Ahead of Monday’s reopening, leaders at Western Kentucky University have their fingers on the launch button for what’s being called the Big Red Restart.  The campus is coming back to life after in-person learning was canceled due to the coronavirus.

"Did you guys get everything out of the car?," asks Anna Tranter. "The refrigerator? What about the microwave? Oh, it's right there."

Tranter is moving into a residence hall at WKU, a rite of passage for thousands of incoming freshmen.  She’s from the northern Kentucky town of Edgewood, and plans to major in fashion merchandising.  Her family is helping her move into her room on the 6th floor of Minton Hall.


For the first time since the coronavirus hit in March, Western Kentucky University will reopen to in-person learning next Monday.

During his annual convocation to faculty and staff on Monday, President Timothy Caboni acknowledged the difficulty of the past five months while sharing some of the school’s milestones. 

In a departure from a packed auditorium at Van Meter Hall, President Caboni delivered his speech virtually to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines.  While acknowledging the coronavirus as the largest challenge in WKU history, Caboni highlighted some successes in recruitment, retention, and graduation.

Mackenzie Kristufek

As Kentucky busiesses and schools reopen, with strict health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a recent graduate of Western Kentucky University said she knows from personal experience that young people are not immune to the coronavirus. 

MacKenzie Kristufek turned around on her way to her temporary job at the end of March because she didn’t feel well. The symptoms of COVID-19 worsened as the day went on with a sore throat, back pain, fever, a headache and difficulty breathing. 

She tested positive for COVID-19 and went into a two-week quarantine. Her boyfriend’s parents helped her get through it. 

Starting next fall, Western Kentucky University will admit some students without taking into account their scores on standardized tests. 

Members of the Board of Regents heard a presentation on Friday about how the school is placing less emphasis on the role of tests like the ACT when it comes to enrolling freshmen.

President Timothy Caboni said the school wants to reward four years of high school success instead of one day of testing.

“While testing can tell you some portion of a student’s capability and capacity, the GPA in high school is the best predictor of college success, so we think we should use that more than other metrics," Caboni told reporters following the Regents meeting.

As he has said many times before, the leader of Western Kentucky University is reiterating the upcoming school year will be unlike any other in the school’s history.

During an online forum with faculty and staff on Monday, President Timothy Caboni fielded questions concerning how the campus will operate under the coronavirus pandemic.

"There is no risk-free environment," stated Caboni. "There will be COVID cases on this campus and our job is to identify them, isolate them, contract trace them as quickly as we can."


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.

Kentucky’s colleges and universities are producing more degrees in science, technology, engineering, math and health care.  The state has surpassed a milestone for bachelor’s degrees in the STEM disciplines, according to a progress report from the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.

During the 2018-19 academic year, Kentucky’s public universities awarded 6,685 STEM plus health care degrees, up two percent from the previous year and 31 percent over the past five years. 


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.


Western Kentucky University has canceled some study abroad programs involving Italy, as that country deals with a substantial outbreak of the coronavirus.            

WKU has cancelled two study abroad courses in Italy based on warnings from the State Department and the Centers for Disease Control.  Both programs were scheduled for May 25 through June 26 during the university’s summer term.

One cancellation is the faculty-led 'Photography in Rome' course. 

The second cancellation is the 'WKU Bands Performance Tour and Study Abroad' which included locations in Venice and Milan, Italy, as well as stops in Greece, Albania and Croatia.

In addition, 14 other students planning to go to Italy for summer programs with partner schools will have to find other destinations.

The CDC has issued a Level 3 Warning to avoid nonessential travel to Italy due to widespread community transmission of respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.