Funding Commonwealth: A Student Perspective

Corey Nicholsover 9 years


Aritcle written by:Corey NicholsCorey Nichols
This poker game took a very sudden, strange turn when Phil remembered he was broke and in college. Yesterday our own Matt Jones had a conversation with Senator David Williams about the issues surrounding the renovation of Commonwealth Stadium, which likely all of us have listened to, read, or otherwise learned a lot about.  It was an enlightening perspective, and Matt was able to get a lot of heretofore unknown information. Particularly noteworthy to students, though, were a couple of notes on exactly why the
In the last budget, a Commonwealth Stadium renovation was included, but was tied to academic projects without dedicated revenue. Williams was clear that he would not support such a request. The reality is that UK likes to bundle athletic projects (which have wide support) with academic renovations where dedicated revenue isn’t as clear.
Many in the commonwealth may embrace the idea of detaching the funding for stadium renovations from academic initiatives without directed revenue.  The academic projects clearly hinder the progress of the athletic endeavors, which would probably get passed fairly quickly.  So why lump them together?  Shouldn't the benefit of a lot outweigh hardship to a few? As a UK grad student, I would say no.  I filled out my FAFSA earlier this year, and almost cried.  It sucks.  I'm looking at a very real possibility of six-figure student loan debt when I graduate, and I'm not alone in that by a longshot.  That makes former-chairman Jim Stuckert's claim that he "[doesn't] see any super burden on individuals" downright laughable.  I also recently spoke to a dean at my college regarding an academic program that they've had for the last two years, and was informed that the aid they've given to students in the past simply is no longer allowable.  In a very real way, the students at the University are absolutely feeling a crunch. Just as recently as the 8th, the Herald-Leader reported on some of the specifics for the academic finances, in light of an approved tuition increase.
The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees approved a 6 percent tuition increase for the upcoming academic year on Tuesday, bringing the total cost of tuition, fees and housing for in-state undergraduates to $16,518 a year. In the past 10 years, UK tuition has increased 147 percent. UK has increased its scholarships from 18 percent of all student aid received by students in 2006 to 33 percent in 2011. That's compared to a downturn in state aid: In 2006, state financial aid made up 41 percent of aid to UK students; now it's down to 27 percent.
By attaching the athletic proposals to the academic issues, the decision-makers at UK are attempting to provide an engine to propel the needs of the students to the forefront of the consideration.  Or, at least, make sure they don't get left at the gate.  Will it work?  Maybe.  But it's at least an attempt to make sure that scholarships are available for students, to help them buy books, afford housing, or even study abroad (or two). Who's to say what the right call here is?  Maybe allowing stadium renovations will increase the overall revenue for the University, making tuition actually more affordable.  It seems like a ridiculously circuitous scenario, but it's possible, right?  Or, the renovations could be just that: "another coat of paint on this lonesome old town," as Tom Waits would say.  Regardless, it's only fair to look at both sides.  If President Capilouto agrees to detach the Stadium funding from the less-popular academic endeavors, the lack of that "engine" could result in even more cost to students.  Those currently enrolled, or hoping to enroll, at the University may be the ones who end up paying the price. If that's the case, is it worth it?

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