UK's Board of Trustees has charted an ambitious path forward — one that emphasizes academic excellence in every phase of our mission, but that particularly focuses on the success of students.
We are a students-first university for all students – undergraduate, graduate and professional. We are maintaining our commitment to affordability and access, and offer a differentiated learning experience with a diversity of academic programs centered on a contiguous campus. And, we are investing in modern technology to enhance learning and tell us more about how and where our students are succeeding and falling short.
For example, in recent years we’ve noticed that one of the greatest impediments to student success and graduation has been financial need. With as little as $5,000 in unmet financial need, the numbers of students who move forward in their academic careers drop several percentage points.
But UK – as the Commonwealth’s land-grant institution – is determined to do something about it.
Over the next several years, under the UK LEADS initiative (Leveraging Economic Affordability for Developing Success), the university will begin to award more of its institutional aid 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.
The initiative aligns with UK’s Strategic Plan, which contemplates moving graduation rates to 70 percent and retention rates to 90 percent by 2020. The Board of Trustees unanimously adopted the Strategic Plan in October 2015.
“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 does not necessarily mean that if a student was eligible for aid under a system where merit aid was the predominant award that they won’t be eligible for scholarships where need-based aid represents the majority of assistance offered.
The goal is to focus on the four pillars – or most important elements – undergirding student success: academic success, financial stability, belonging and engagement and wellness.