Opinion: Funding the future; Now is the time for alumni to give back

Cameron Coyle

Coming back to the Hill can stir up old memories, as walking toward Houchens-Smith Stadium calls on alumni to think about their years of foot- ball games. Saturday night gives them the chance to reconnect with people with whom they have unbreakable bonds.

However, future students may not be lucky enough to have this same opportunity with the way Kentucky is funding higher education. State funding for higher education continues to shrink and universities struggle to make up for the losses.

From 2008-18, Kentucky’s per-student spending dropped 27.2%, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, ranking 12th worst in the nation for its decline. It was one of five states that cut funding for higher education this fiscal year.

In February of this year, The Courier Journal quoted Aaron Thompson, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education: “Our institutions are down to the bone now.”

Inevitably, public universities are being forced to turn elsewhere for resources to keep their pro- grams running.

Just this year, WKU’s Board of Regents approved a 2% tuition increase for in-state undergraduate students, following more than a decade of tuition increases at WKU. The in-state tuition for 2019-20 is $5,401 per semester —$1,936 more than it was in 2008.

This is why now is a great time for alumni who are financially able to help the university which made their careers possible.

Amanda Trabue, WKU’s vice president for Alumni and Philanthropy Engagement, said WKU has many ways to directly affect students, like the revamped scholarship program which allows students to receive aid regardless of ACT score.

“Private support allows the University to continue to fund programs to create new programs that may have otherwise gone unfunded,” Trabue said in an email. “Donors direct their gifts to support the area(s) of the University that are important to them. In our current budget environment, their support is critical.” She added that this is a way for alumni to have an immediate impact on students lives.

President Timothy Caboni said in an email homecoming is one of his favorite times of the year because it brings the “WKU family” together. This gathering of alumni who share so many great memories should be aware of how they can help and what their contributions can do for current and future students.

“[Homecoming] provides us with an opportunity to pause and celebrate who we are as a community of faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors, and friends,” Caboni said. “It’s also a time to showcase the important work we’re doing to transform lives through the WKU experience.”

Making this type of donation feels rewarding, said Julie Hinson, a member of the WKU Board of Regents and third-generation WKU graduate.

“For making us who we are, WKU deserves our time, talent and especially, treasure in their time of need,” Hinson said in an email.

Hinson helped found the WKU Sisterhood, an organization of alumni who find a way to give back to their alma mater.

“The impact we make by combining our resources is far more significant than what we would be able to do alone,” Hinson said.

It’s important to elect public officials who will support education, but we can’t leave our fate entirely in their hands. It will take a joint effort to ensure WKU can continue to create successful Hilltoppers who will return and feel compelled to give back to the school which got them where they are.

Opinion Editor Cameron Coyle can be reached at [email protected].