At the University of Louisville we like to say: “It’s happening here.” But the truth is, UofL is happening everywhere—all over Kentucky and beyond. Never was that clearer to me than this past fall when I headed out on the road and visited practically every corner of our great state. It felt sort of like a concert tour. We even made T-shirts!
With an entourage of top UofL researchers, students, recruiters and alumni, the 16-stop 2009 outreach program included visits to more than 10 high schools in the eastern, western and central parts of the state. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to talk about everything from the university’s pioneering research to its nationally recognized schools of business, engineering, education, medicine and much more.
I discussed all the positive aspects of attending UofL, including small class sizes, a vibrant student life and the chance to work with groundbreaking researchers. But the tour also gave me the chance to meet with some outstanding high school students and encourage them to continue their educations—whether it be at UofL or another institution—stressing that the changing job market will require employees to have a college degree. I was impressed with the young people I met. I also was impressed with the local leaders and alumni I visited with along the way. And I emerged energized and hopeful about our university’s crucial role in helping move Kentucky in the right direction down the winding road to success.
I say winding road because there have been—and will continue to be—great challenges. The shortest distance between two points does not work on a journey like this. One crucial twist in the road begins now with the 2010 Kentucky General Assembly. Dealing with a record state budget shortfall and all the other symptoms of the worst economy since World War II, our friends in the legislature have a difficult task. But we are asking them to help us keep moving forward in these tough times.
For starters, we need maintenance and operation of our state-funded facilities to be once again covered by the state budget. With state-of-the art research buildings, yet no state funding for operations and maintenance, academic programs will have to be cut to meet the $6 million need for this year alone. We also are asking our friends in the General Assembly to restore base funding for higher education. We cannot cut enough to withstand another reduction without direct consequences for students. Tuition is connected directly to the state’s support of higher education. As cuts continue, tuition rises and quality of education suffers. We also need funding for more classroom space. Undergraduate student applications are soaring while retention and graduation rates are rising. This is a good thing—a great thing. But we lack classroom space to meet the demand.
Finally, we ask the General Assembly to remember the value of Bucks for Brains, a program that is more important now than ever, because matching funds double the impact of research investment through job creation, increased economic activity and growth opportunities for Kentucky. UofL is making a difference in the lives of our students and in the lives of our fellow citizens. Help us keep Kentucky moving in the right direction.
James R. Ramsey