Investing in Success

The University of Kentucky puts students – and their success -- at the center of everything.

In recent years, for example, we’ve noticed that the greatest impediment to student success and graduation has been financial need. With as little as $5,000 in unmet financial need, the numbers of students moving forward in their academic careers drops several percentage points.

But UK – as the Commonwealth’s land-grant institution that serves the entire state -- is determined to do something about it.

Specifically, over the next several years, under the UK LEADS initiative (Leveraging Economic Affordability for Developing Success), the university will move to awarding a majority of its financial aid and scholarships based on financial need.

Significant merit aid will still be offered. All current scholarships will be honored, including those on the UK admissions site this year.

 But beginning next year, the university will begin shifting more of its aid to address financial need. That’s part of UK’s strategic plan, which contemplates aggressive moves in improving graduation rates to 70 percent and retention rates to 90 percent between now and 2020. The Board of Trustees unanimously adopted the Strategic Plan last October.

“We have made tremendous strides in the last five years in improving academic quality and diversity while growing the number of students we educate to meet the needs of our state and region,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “But that’s not enough. We must move more quickly and more dramatically to impact student success. Unmet financial need is one of the – if not the – biggest obstacle to graduation.

"We know that moving graduation and retention rates is good for Kentucky’s economy and it is good for Kentucky’s families. We must and we will lead.”

Importantly, UK officials said, the shift doesn’t necessarily mean that if a student was eligible for aid under a system where merit aid is the predominant award that they won’t be eligible for scholarships where need-based aid represents the majority of assistance offered.

“We know that students awarded merit scholarships often have financial need,” said UK Provost Tim Tracy. “Academic merit and financial need is not mutually exclusive.”

 The goal is to key in on what Tracy says are the four pillars – or most important elements – undergirding student success: academic success, financial stability, belonging and engagement and wellness. With those pillars anchoring the realignment of the academic enterprise, Tracy has recently announced plans to add eight licensed clinicians to the 13 already in place and an additional 30 academic advisors on top of about 54 currently at UK. Career counselors, case managers and personnel at the university’s Violence Intervention and Prevention Center also are being added.

To read more about UK’s commitment to student success click here.