The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

Student listening session answers questions on repositioning, outsourcing health services

February 9, 2023


Mildred Nguyen

Provost Matt Cecil, CFO Jeremy Alltop and Dr. Eddie Howard were among the administrators present at the student listening session.

In an open student listening session held Feb. 8 in the Student Union, university administrators answered questions regarding the ongoing repositioning plan and a decision to outsource health services to third parties. While the session was communicated by email as open to all students with an incentive to win a gift card for attending students, turnout was very low.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Matt Cecil noted that the key dates to look forward to are in March, which holds the contractual deadline for notifying non-tenure-track faculty who will not be renewed. The university will also ask the Board of Regents to authorize creating the Academic Commons at their March 15 meeting. What follows will be a two-year budget reduction exercise to consolidate academic support units on campus.

“Next year we’ll have to implement a lot of these reductions that we’re doing,” Cecil said. “There will be fewer faculty on campus. In some instances, class sizes will increase a little bit, but we think we can do that in a smart way so it doesn’t negatively impact students.”

Part of NKU’s repositioning strategy involves directing more attention and resources to local high schools and transfer students. The provost mentioned that the number of transfers have dropped by around 30% since the transfer office was reduced years ago in a budget cut.

The decision to outsource health services to third party health care companies was also made partly to ease the financial burden on NKU, but their main goal is to ensure students receive the same or higher level of services than they do now, said Director for Student Wellbeing and Support Meg Hensley.

“One thing we’ve been focusing on is investing in student wellbeing and holistic student wellness. So even though we’re outsourcing health services we’re also trying to expand health services,” Hensley added.

NKU has sent out requests containing the outsourcing proposal to health services and expects to close responses on Feb. 12. Interested providers should accept Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE for veterans, as well as meeting the needs of LGBTQA+ students, Hensley said.

The outsourced services will not include counseling, so that students can continue to receive counseling free of charge for this academic year through a fee waiver. A federal grant helps offset the cost of counseling services at NKU, though administrators are unsure if they can continue to fund it for next year. Students are also seeing nurses for free unless they have lab work or if a nurse practitioner is required.

Hensley assured that NKU seeks to continue these discounting practices so that outsourced services will not incur additional costs on students. Vice President for Administration & Finance and Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Alltop said that unlike some institutions that charge a health center fee, NKU’s health services are funded directly by tuition revenue.

Additionally, NKU will establish the new Department of Student Wellness, led by Tiffany Mayse, former director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, Leadership and Civic Engagement, who will work with health, counseling, student inclusiveness, housing and some of academic affairs to provide students with holistic wellness programming.

Asked if NKU has any plans to counter extreme weather events like the freezing storm that caused flooding damage in several campus buildings over winter break, Alltop responded that adding infrastructure that may withstand -30 degree weather and -40 degree wind can incur significantly more cost on buildings, and that NKU was not alone in sustaining damage in the winter storm. Such extreme weather might occur more frequently due to climate change, but he is confident that people, infrastructure and utilities can adapt.

“I don’t want to say that we’re not taking [adverse weather] into account, but we are working with local building codes, with the construction trades, with how construction has evolved,” Alltop said, adding that NKU is maintaining sustainability practices as they update and modernize buildings.

As parking will be incorporated into the repositioning plan to bring in more revenue for NKU, Alltop said that changes in parking, once vetted and approved by the Board of Regents, will likely increase rates for all individuals parking at NKU, whether faculty or student.

Correction: This article previously stated that Tiffany Mayse was the Student Engagement Coordinator. She held the position of Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, Leadership and Student Engagement.

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