WKU to end ACT requirement for most scholarships, add $5.2 million in scholarship funding

President Timothy Caboni holds a press conference to announce a change in enrollment and scholarship requirements for incoming students as well as expansion of existing scholarships.

Jack Dobbs

WKU will soon stop utilizing ACT scores to award most of its scholarships to incoming freshmen and will decrease the minimum GPA requirement from a 3.3 to a 3.0.

Additionally, another $5.2 million will become available to incoming freshmen through both new and existing scholarship funds. WKU President Timothy Caboni said these scholarships will be available only to freshmen.

“Last year, 39% of the freshman class was eligible for scholarships,” Caboni said in a press conference. “This year, we’re anticipating 80% of the first-year class will receive some sort of scholarship aid. That is a remarkable investment.”

The $5.2 million is a 20% increase from last year, according to an email Caboni sent to WKU alumni. 

The scholarships will be funded through a “variety of revenue streams,” Caboni said. Instead of focusing on head count, Caboni said, WKU will look at what enrollment mix grows revenue.

Scholarship money is being raised through the WKU Opportunity Fund, Caboni said. Over the past two years, the Opportunity Fund has generated over $27 million and created over 72 new scholarship funds. 

“We’re going to continue to work hard to ensure that the WKU experience is affordable and accessible no matter someone’s economic condition,” Caboni said.

The ACT requirement change comes at a time when WKU must be more competitive in recruiting students in Kentucky as well as middle Tennessee, Caboni said. He cited a “challenging decline” in enrollment. 

“We are, just like many institutions in Kentucky, challenged with a declining 18 year old cohort,” Caboni said during a press conference. “So we must do things that make us both more attractive and more affordable, and this is definitely a response to the things we’ve heard in the state.”

Caboni said WKU has been working on the program for a year and a half to ensure students will be successful at the university.

“There is an entire mix to the enrollment package that’s important for us as an institution,” Caboni said. 

The focus began with retention, Caboni said. Over the past two years, steps have been taken to provide more means for student success at WKU, such as the Intercultural Student Engagement Center, the Summer Scholars program and the Kelly M. Burch Institute for Transformative Practices in Higher Education. 

“There’s a whole host of support systems, including centralized advising, that are working to make sure every student we admit leaves with a four year degree,” Caboni said.

In addition, a press release stated the Cornelius A. Martin scholarship will expand to create more scholarship opportunities for underrepresented minority students.

“I’m not interested in recruiting freshmen anymore,” Caboni said. “ I’m interested in recruiting future four-year-degree holders, and we’re going to put all of our efforts toward that.”

The new changes are expected to take effect for the fall 2020 semester.

Reporter Jack Dobbs can be reached at 270-745-0655 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jackrdobbs.