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Student and Academic Life

Wed, 07/20/2016 - 16:15

Thursday, July 21, 2016


This week, we implemented steps in our efforts to realign resources in the newly formed unit reporting to the Office of the Provost, Student and Academic Life (SAL).


There’s no putting it lightly; this week was a difficult one for our university family.


As we have announced previously, the realignment includes position eliminations, as well as the reclassification of existing positions and creation of new ones.


Transitions like this one are not a numbers game to anyone involved in this process. Real people are involved—people who have made valued contributions to our campus community. Therefore, it was and is crucial that we approach any decision of this magnitude with consideration and compassion.


I would ask that we all work together, and with a sense of compassion and humanity, to work with those affected by these moves and to be mindful of the impact on everyone across these critical areas of student support.


At the same time, I believe it is important to remind ourselves, as a community, why we’ve chosen this path.


This realignment underscores our ultimate vision: creating the best possible environment to support student success. We are realigning our resources to create the best organization—structurally—to accomplish this important goal.


A merging of the critical efforts within the Division of Student Affairs and Undergraduate Education to form the unit of Student and Academic Life will provide a more integrated, collaborative support structure to guide students through their academic journey at UK.  The new structure reallocates more resources from administration to frontline staff working with and directly supporting our students on a regular basis.


We are investing more – and investing more strategically – in our students. They are, and they must be, at the center of everything that we do.


For example, over time we are creating eight additional counseling positions in the UK Counseling Center, significantly expanding the center’s capacity to support the health and well-being of our students. That is in addition to the more than $5 million spent in recent years on safety measures, including more police, counselors, and technology.


Our goal in creating this new structure—for Student and Academic Life as well as for other units reporting to the Office of the Provost—is to better function as a seamless team, rather than as islands of effort.  From the students’ perspective, their educational experiences should be integrated as one experiential process.  Yet, far too often despite the best efforts of so many of us, the educational services and support we provide our students can be segregated and fragmented at times, especially with respect to how central Provost Office units connect to, and work in support of, the colleges.


Against that backdrop, our goal is to create a truly integrated, holistic model: one that aligns functionality of the Provost Office units with the efforts of the colleges.  Our new approach will further expand our efforts to support students and underscore our commitment to put them first in everything we do.


Over the last several weeks we’ve had meaningful discussions with college leadership, including the deans and associate deans, as the new Student and Academic Life organizational structure has taken shape. We’re very grateful for this invaluable input.


As we head into the beginning of a new academic year, we are reminded of our ambitious objectives outlined in our Strategic Plan. The plan charts our course to become one of the country’s leading public, residential research universities, envisioning retention rates of 90 percent; graduation rates at 70 percent; and a significant closure of the gap in retention and graduation rates that exist for underrepresented student populations.


We know that making this kind of swift and dramatic progress will require a more seamless and integrated approach to our efforts. To reach these goals, we must think and act differently. And we must make dramatic change now.


The steps we are taking are focused entirely on aligning our resources to support those efforts and priorities—matching money to mission.


I know we can get there. I believe deeply in our shared vision and priorities.


And while this process involved very difficult decisions—that were not taken lightly—I’m hopeful that our UK family will work humanely and collaboratively with our ultimate goal in mind: our promise to the students we serve.


Thank you for everything you do.



Tim Tracy


FAQs About Tuition, Record Investment in Student Financial Aid & Scholarships

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 09:37

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


Last Friday, under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the University of Kentucky broke an important record. Increasing investments in student scholarships and financial aid by 12.5 percent in 2016-2017, our institution is now investing the greatest amount in our history—a record $117 million—to help ensure greater access and affordability.


That increased investment in scholarships and aid is part of a $3.5 billion budget that the Board approved. Their endorsement underscored our collective focus on our priorities: matching money to mission.


These funding priorities center on improving student success – with goals of 90 percent retention and 70 percent graduation rates by 2020 – and objectives included in our Strategic Plan.


As President Capilouto said at the meeting, the record investment represents an intentional and focused effort to place students at the center of everything that we do.


Throughout this budget process, we’ve maintained, as a priority, a commitment to informing and engaging the campus community about the budget development and how it strengthens our future as the University FOR Kentucky. We’ve posted a series of FAQs that we’ve received, along with answers on the UK4KY website.


Several of these questions are displayed below. You can find a full compilation of questions and answers here:


Why can’t you find efficiencies that save money rather than raise tuition?

Since 2008, UK has responded to $67 million in recurring decreases in its state appropriations. This year alone, the University has more than $48 million in additional budget needs, a figure far greater than the state's reduction. These needs are driven by increasing fixed costs, utilities, building maintenance and operation, and increases in student financial aid, among others.


Finding efficiencies has been a part of our strategy for more than a decade. It's a process we undertake on an annual basis to meet our financial needs, but there aren't enough efficiency measures we can take without causing detrimental harm to our ability to serve students and the Commonwealth.


Tuition revenue is part of the equation, but we do not consider rate increases until all other alternatives to be more efficient or generate alternative revenue have been considered. The state dollar is the first dollar into our budget; tuition and fees are the last dollar.


How is UK trying to offset some of the cost of tuition?

We begin addressing our financial needs by improving efficiencies and considering new revenues. In the FY2016-17 proposed budget, we identified nearly $7 million in additional efficiencies through e-payables, energy conservation, campus sponsorships, and operating cash returns.


In addition, the realignment in the units reporting to the Office of the Provost is generating $6 million in savings and cost containment opportunities.


Additionally, $10.8 million in new tuition revenue is generated though increased retention, a change in the residency mix in our students, a larger first-year class size, and new Masters and targeted program growth. This additional revenue is not affected by any rate increase.


All of these factors impact the cost of tuition. At the same time, our budget maintains affordable access to a quality higher education. In compliance with parameters set by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, the budget proposes a five percent increase in tuition and fee rates for in-state or resident students, and 8.5 percent for non-resident or out-of-state students.


How does UK plan to help more students with financial need?

Our budget maintains affordable access to a quality higher education. In compliance with parameters set by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, the budget proposes a five percent increase in tuition and fee rates for in-state or resident students, and 8.5 percent for non-resident or out-of-state students.


The proposed rate for resident students results in a four-year average annual tuition and fee rate increase of four percent – the lowest four-year average percentage increase in more than 10 years. Since Fall 2007, the average out-of-pocket tuition and mandatory fee expense for resident students has increased by only $364 per semester because of UK’s additional investment in student financial aid and scholarships, now up to $117 million in the proposed budget – more than double the investment in the last decade.


What if we stopped all the building, we wouldn't have to raise tuition or make other cuts, right? 

The University’s investment in campus is primarily (91%) driven by support from sources other than the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The largest source of funds driving the campus transformation is money from our private partners, philanthropy, strategic uses of our campus resources, and support from UK Athletics.


Due to effective financial stewardship, the University has a strong credit rating, allowing us to secure low-interest bonds. Our housing partner, EdR, is funding the construction of new residence halls. Our dining partner, Aramark, is paying for the construction of new dining halls like The 90, and private donors funded the entire renovation cost of the Gatton College of Business and Economics. UK Athletics is generating its own resources for improvements in our Athletics infrastructure, and it is contributing $65 million to a new Academic Science Building.


UK was only cut 4.5 percent but you raised tuition 5 percent - why did you raise tuition more than you were cut?

A state dollar and tuition dollar are not created equal. Few students pay the full cost of attendance out of pocket; most receive some type of scholarship to offset the cost of a college education. This is true at all institutions.


Because of this - what we call the "discount rate" - we do not realize the full amount of a tuition dollar. Therefore, tuition rate increases do not equate to state appropriation decreases, another reason why state investment is so critical to holding down the cost of higher education.


Kentucky has reduced UK's recurring appropriation by more than $67 million since 2008 while tuition revenue has increased by $221 million, so why can't your absorb another reduction?

UK utilized the additional tuition and fee revenue to offset the $67 million in recurring decreases in its state appropriations. In addition, the University must manage fixed costs like utilities and building operations: costs that increase annually. UK also increased student financial aid and scholarships that do not have to be repaid by $56 million. As a result, nearly half of UK resident students graduate without debt.


At the same time, UK invested $110 million in the academic enterprise, campus safety, student support services, advising, and instruction.


This year alone, the University has more than $48 million in additional budget needs, a figure far greater than the state's reduction. We meet this need by examining areas where we can cut costs, improve efficiencies, and generate new revenue. Only then - the last step in the budget process - do we consider tuition and fee rates.


You can find a full compilation of questions and answers here:



Timothy S. Tracy




Updates on Our Progress: Transforming Academic Excellence

Mon, 06/13/2016 - 16:31

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


Last Thursday, I was pleased to engage in a thoughtful discussion with individuals in the areas that report to the Office of the Provost.  It was the first in a series of monthly meetings with the areas that directly support students and academic excellence at UK. I appreciated the willingness of nearly 300 people—to take the time out of already busy schedules to discuss our important work and how we can do even better for our students.


This series of meetings is just one component of our commitment to remain open and transparent throughout this realignment process. It also illustrates the way we must continue to view our work—as a team, united across the various units with a shared goal. Student success.


The work occurring in the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, Enrollment Management, the International Center, and the newly formed unit, Student and Academic Life, is part of a realignment that must be understood as an integration of efforts rather than units that operate apart from, or independent from, one another. Moving forward, we must work collectively and even more collaboratively to determine how we can best serve our students and foster an environment of academic excellence.


On May 26, we announced publically our plans to realign parts of our campus to make greater progress on the goals outlined in the Strategic Plan. Our realignment – as part of the budget the Board will consider later this month – is designed to generate nearly $6 million in savings in the coming year.


As part of this process, work is currently underway to complete a review of positions across several departments, which are projected to include reductions in force of up to 75 positions. As I shared on Thursday, it is important to note that this is an estimate, based on several factors, and represents positions from across multiple units, not just Academic Excellence units. In addition, the estimate includes a number of positions that are already vacant.


I also presented a revised timeline for the work we will accomplish together. We will begin advertising the position for an Associate Provost for Student and Academic Life in July, while renewing Victor Hazard’s role as interim until the conclusion of our national search. Phil Kraemer will remain as the liaison for all issues that need a faculty leadership and guidance.


I’ve also asked Kim Anderson, associate dean in the College of Engineering, to serve as a liaison with the associate deans across campus throughout this process. Their input and expertise will be vital as we continue to develop our plans to enhance student success.


We hope to unveil our new organizational structure for the newly merged unit, Student and Academic Life, in early July. At this point, we will post, shift and eliminate positions in line with the new structure.


We have also initiated a deep examination of our Enrollment Management unit to determine how we can better support and organize these crucial efforts on behalf of our university.


EM’s role is critical to the financial health, mission and vision of the institution; as with all areas, we want to maximize its strengths while looking for opportunities to improve.


Finally, we will continue discussions about the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching as well as the UK International Center over the next 6-8 weeks as part of our analysis of the entire student and faculty support structure with the Provost’s Office.


I’m very pleased with the work we have achieved so far. Over the past month, we have developed plans to align current resources with the four pillars of student success—the reasons for which research suggests students struggle. Those are academic success; financial stability; engagement and belonging; and wellness. We’ve worked to link current distribution of resources with those goals.


We’ve also discussed at length topics surrounding business continuity. I’m thankful to Jennifer Edwards and her team, as they have met with a number of groups and unit leaders to determine how to continue delivering the highest level of support to both students and the larger UK community throughout this transition. They will continue to meet with various units over the coming weeks.


In addition, the various unit leads along with Dr.  Anderson and others have affirmed various proposed initiatives—under the four student success pillars—to be our main focus for the next 12-18 months:


Financial stability:

  • We’ve seen success with the Provost Persistence Grant program—grants given to students with financial holds due to small sums of money. Having analyzed the data from past efforts with this program, we want to continue and expand it. 


  • We’re significantly expanding the capacity of the Counseling Center to serve our students. We have already begun hiring several new counselors and plan to continue expanding those efforts in the future. 
  • We are also gathering a team to determine how we can better support and integrate our student alert systems. These alerts allow us to better identify students who may be struggling for various reasons, enhancing our ability to intervene.

Belonging and Engagement:

  • We have had several conversations with leaders across campus to discuss how we can better support first-year and summer transition programs.

Academic success:

  • We are working to determine the best approach to advising for the University of Kentucky. We aim to add additional resources and support to this critical component of student success. We have already begun to work with the advising leadership team and the associate deans, utilizing their experience and expertise.
  • We also aim to expand our on-campus tutoring services.

As you can see, we’ve accomplished a great deal thus far, though we still have much to accomplish together. I’m deeply grateful for efforts across these units to serve our students.


As we talk a great deal about becoming more student-centric, I want to emphasize that I don’t mean we are not already. Each of the individuals working in these areas cares deeply about students; they strive to help them in myriad ways and put them first in everything they do. 


What I mean is that, as an overall organization, we must be as student-centric as possible – structurally, organizationally and operationally.  We must have an organization that supports the work we do and a culture that fosters the collaboration needed to help every student thrive.


We aim to build an organizational structure and culture that reflects the student-centric work we do every day.


That’s what makes us the University for Kentucky. Thank you for your role in that promise.


Stay up to date on our progress here.


Timothy S. Tracy


Supporting Student Success

Wed, 06/01/2016 - 16:42

Thursday, June 3, 2016


Last week, we communicated with the campus our plans to realign our resources to accomplish our most important objective: supporting student success.


We’ve built incredible momentum in the last several years under the leadership of President Capilouto and thanks to our community’s dedication and outstanding work.


We are educating and retaining more students than at any time in our 150-year history. We have the second highest graduation rates in our history, and student quality is at unprecedented levels even as we have significantly grown enrollment. We are more diverse than ever before, and we’ve maintained our commitment to access and affordability by slowing the rate of tuition increases and expanding aid and scholarships.


Our progress is a source of pride. But now we must take the next step, and our Strategic Plan positions us to do so.


So what is our path forward?


There are about 150 universities in the country with six-year graduation rates that exceed 70 percent. We want to be one of them. Kentucky students and families need us to be one of them.


We see peer institutions with a student profile similar to UK in this elite group, and we see the extraordinary faculty and staff on our campus who are committed to students. So, we know we can get there.


We envision significant increases in graduation and retention rates, fostering an even more diverse and inclusive campus community, expanding research and creative scholarship, and advancing subspecialty care that helps solve the Commonwealth’s biggest challenges.


Our aspirations are ambitious and our sights high, however we must achieve these goals if we are to truly serve our role as the Commonwealth’s indispensable institution. Our goals are anchored in our mission-- to transform the lives of our students and advance the Commonwealth we serve and beyond.


The challenge we are addressing now is how we deploy those resources in the most student-focused and cost-effective, efficient way. The realignment and university budget are based on this priority.


Through this budget and our process of realigning our resources and people, we will do more to ensure students graduate with a degree from the University of Kentucky prepared to navigate a complex, global economy of commerce and culture. 


Indeed, our goals are about much more than numbers. It’s important to remember what those numbers represent.


For example, last fall, our first- to second- year retention rate was 82.7 percent—our largest number of returning students at 4,253. That represented roughly 463 additional students since the same time the previous fall.


Think about what that means:


463 more students continuing their path to a degree.

463 potential graduates who can serve our state.

463 lives and families impacted by continuing education.


This is at the heart of our efforts. We must continue to build upon our momentum, because these figures are not simply numbers. They represent the lives we’re called to serve.


We are realigning our support systems so that we can serve them as best we can. We are matching money to mission.


Thank you for your role in our shared commitment to those we touch and teach.


Timothy S. Tracy



The Showcase for Undergraduate Scholars

Wed, 05/04/2016 - 11:22

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Our Strategic Plan calls upon us to be the University of choice for aspiring undergraduate students, within the Commonwealth and beyond. Focused on our most precious priority, student success, we are charged with providing transformational education that promotes self-discovery, experiential learning, and life-long achievement.


You see these efforts across our campus, and I’m thankful each day for the dedicated faculty and staff who work tirelessly on behalf of our students.


I had the opportunity to see some of these efforts on display last Wednesday.


The Showcase for Undergraduate Scholars celebrated student involvement in research and highlighted a wide variety of our students’ research productivity. Ese Ighodaro and Marcel Roman, both of whom engaged in undergraduate research locally, nationally, and/or internationally, delivered Keynote presentations, sharing the enormous benefits they gained from this experience with the attendees. Fine Arts (music; percussion) student, Alex Smith, described his rigorous research project, which culminated in a piece he demonstrated, called “Bone Alphabet.” 


Of course, research is an extremely valuable, high-impact experience for undergraduate students across all disciplines.  Our world-class faculty serve as mentors, preparing and guiding students for success as emerging scholars.


I particularly enjoyed seeing two of our faculty members honored by their mentees for their extraordinary guidance and mentorship: Dr. Jonathan Golding (Psychology), and Dr. Jeffrey Osborne (Biology). Both commented that being recognized by students was the greatest of honors—a sentiment with which I agree completely.


Congratulations to each of the student presenters and to the faculty award winners.


An event with more than 350 student presenters cannot be successful without extremely hard work and a great amount of dedication. The Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, Dr. Diane Snow, and I would like to formally thank the following individuals who organized and implemented this event: 


  • staff members Evie Russell, Lynn Hiler, and Jennifer Stevens,
  • student workers Danna Spears and Shelby Fairchild,
  • members of the Society for the Promotion of Undergraduate Research (SPUR President, Jay VanDoorn),
  • the Student Outreach Team (SOT), 
  • Bessie Guerrant, Associate Director for Undergraduate Research,
  • “Electric Kool Aid", Dr. Cody Birdwell, and the Music Dept. for the jazz entertainment,
  • and all the faculty and other mentors who show their commitment to student success everyday through their work with undergraduate students.

Thank you to all who made this event a huge success.  We look forward to the growth and continued success of this event in years to come.


Timothy S. Tracy



Transforming Academic Excellence

Wed, 04/27/2016 - 10:59

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Last Friday, I wrote to our community about an important step in our shared commitment to students. A reorganization of the five units that constitute our commitment to academic excellence will embolden and animate our vision to foster a transformational educational experience for all students.


UK is — and must be — a community that promotes self-discovery, experiential learning, and life-long achievement.


Under the leadership of President Capilouto and our Board of Trustees, we are charting an ambitious course to become one of the country’s leading public, residential research universities. Our Strategic Plan — adopted by the board last October — reflects a core principle: putting students first in everything we do.


In doing so, it envisions retention rates of 90 percent, graduation rates at 70 percent, and a significant closure of the gap in retention and graduation rates that exist for underrepresented student populations.


We have made great progress in these areas over the past several years; however, to spark the dramatic improvements that we seek, to make a dramatic impact on the students we serve, we must make dramatic change now.


This process of refocus will take several months,  and I know that can create some sense of uncertainty, but working together, I'm confident we can create an organization focused intently on what matters most. And that is an exciting notion. 


We have the opportunity to make real, consequential and meaningful change: change that benefits the lives we’re charged to serve.


Last year, our first- to second- year retention rate was 82.7 percent—our largest number of returning students at 4,253. That represented roughly 463 additional students since the same time the previous fall.


Think about what that means.


463 more students continuing their path to a degree.


463 potential graduates who can serve our state.


463 lives and families impacted by continuing education.


This is at the heart of our efforts. We must continue to build upon our momentum, because these figures are not simply numbers. They represent the lives we’re called to serve.


We’re building our capacity to serve them as best we can.


Today, we have too many islands of effort, where instead we need a seamless and integrated organizational structure among all our units in support of students and their success.


We must create an organization that allocates every available resource toward directly supporting enhanced student success and academic excellence through innovative teaching and learning, and enrichment experiences.


We must invest more in advising and front-line student support, such as counseling, by eliminating administrative bureaucracy and providing more professional development and career advancement opportunities for advisors.


To do so, we will take critical services in what is today Undergraduate Education and merge them into the colleges and Student Affairs, where they can more directly support student success. We’ll also blend the services of Student Affairs directly into academic programming.


Between now and August 15, we will create this process and develop a plan for investing more in front-line student support, as we prepare for the next group of first-year students.


Later this week, members of my team and I will be travelling to North Carolina State University to meet with a member of the UK family, Mike Mullen. Mike, vice chancellor and dean of the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, who previously served as UK associate provost for Undergraduate Education. He and his team have engaged in a similar realignment of these crucial areas at his new institution.


This month, we’ll also visit UT Knoxville, another institution that has made significant strides in retention and graduation rates through enhanced student support. We will use their experience and expertise to complement efforts on our campus.


We are committed to continuing a dialogue with the campus, as we work through these changes together. To that end, we’ve created a website that will be continuously updated as we receive questions from the community.


Thank you for everything you do each day on behalf of the students we serve.


Timothy S. Tracy