NKU needs state’s support

Northern Kentucky University President James Votruba called for Kentucky to invest more in the university at his State of the University speech, the Kentucky Post reported Aug. 19, saying that the region, and the state, would profit greatly from a fully-funded school.

I couldn’t agree more.

As The Northerner reported last spring, NKU has gone from the 1999 “No Knowledge College” to a university where nearly half the incoming freshman now attend because of NKU’s academic reputation. One-third said the social reputation of NKU played a deciding role in their choice of NKU, twice that of 1999’s. Three-fourths also said NKU was their first choice.

In 1999, more than half of those freshmen planned to transfer from NKU before graduating. Now, only six percent plan to move.

Clearly, NKU is well on its way to success, and students view it as their path to success, rather than just a pit stop.

But the university is also bringing along the rest of the region on its drive to improve Northern Kentucky. Already, NKU has demonstrated that increased funding and focus by Frankfort legislators helps not only students, but also the community as a whole.

In just the last few years, ecology students and professors have already helped repair parts of Big Bone Lick State Park. They have worked to repair a sliding hill as well as clear out invasive species, reclaiming parts of the park for the native trees and plants. They’re also planning more projects.

NKU’s Infomatics department helped the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky, TANK, install Wi-Fi on its metros, allowing riders to surf the Web while they ride the bus.

Our school has also played host to several political debates between renowned ideologues. It is already planning another one Oct. 25 that will pit Pat Buchanan, a former presidential candidate and well-known political pundit, against Tom Daschle, the current Democratic Senate majority leader.

And love him or, as 76 percent of the country does, hate him, everyone must agree that having a president, even one as bad as George W. Bush, visit NKU is an honor and one that shows just how far NKU has come.

Unfortunately, as Votruba said, NKU needs more state support to continue to serve the region.

He pointed out how, without adequate funding for more faculty, staff, and infrastructure in basically every academic department, NKU will not meet its goal of 23,000 undergraduates by 2020.

Without that, he said, it will be difficult to double the number of degrees earned, an absolute requirement for the ambitious goal of creating 50,000 high-wage jobs in Northern Kentucky by 2015.

Already, NKU is feeling that crunch. It’s had to turn away more than 200 incoming students simply because it didn’t have the dormitories to house them. The renovation of Lakeside, the former nursing home that was supposed to supply the school with up to 400 additional dorms, has been bogged down by the Kentucky legislature’s reluctance to invest in the state’s schools.

Call your legislators in Frankfort and let them know that, if they want Northern Kentucky to thrive, they need to put their money where their mouths are and give students the resources required to help the region achieve its goal.

Because if Kentucky really cares about its northern half, it will fully commit to funding NKU and helping create 50,000 high-wage jobs within the next eight years.

After all, more well-paying jobs and more educated citizens, to me, seems like a great return.