Caboni talks budget, admission standards in meeting with editors

President Tim Caboni meets with members of the editorial board of the College Heights Herald on Friday Aug. 18, 2017. 

Monica Kast

Members of the Herald editorial board met with President Timothy C. Caboni on Friday afternoon to discuss his first semester as president and changes that may come to the university. Here are four takeaways from the meeting.


We aren’t out of the woods on budget woes just yet. Despite the nearly $30 million in carry forward funds that were approved last year, WKU is still looking at a budget deficit that could fall between $11 million and $15 million, Caboni said.

He added using “carry forward works for this year,” but it also presents several major drawbacks, including penalizing units on campus that are “doing well and creating revenue.” Caboni said the budget council will have to look at ways to make the budget work for the university that WKU is today.

“Our budget today was built for a different era, an era of growing enrollment,” Caboni said. “While we’re still going to be 20,000 students strong, the mix of students within that 20,000 has changed over time.”

The final budget deficit will not be known until October, Caboni said, and is dependent on things like state support, pension and enrollment numbers.

Caboni also addressed the performance-based funding model, which will go into effect this academic year. Caboni said the performance-based funding model is “crucial” to the overall budget of WKU.

“The way in which performance funding was enacted in Kentucky means that funds are going to move from one higher education institution to another based upon performance,” Caboni said. “We must, and we will, position ourselves to be successful in that model. That also means difficult choices and making sure that we’re doing everything in our power to help our students be successful.”

Admission Standards

During discussion about the performance-based funding model, Caboni talked about current admission standards at WKU. He said he wants to make sure each student admitted to WKU has a “reasonable chance of success,” which makes WKU more successful.

Currently, if a student has a score of 20 on the ACT, a score of 1020 on the SAT or an unweighted high school GPA of 2.5, they meet admissions requirements for WKU.

“If we’re going to make an offer of admission to someone, they must have a reasonable chance of success at this institution,” Caboni said. “And if they don’t, we need to do everything in our power to get them to a place where they’re going to be successful.”

Caboni said one option for students may be attending a community college under dual enrollment at WKU, then transferring later to WKU with the potential for scholarships through that program.

“Every student to whom we make an offer of admission to, we have to have the exception that they have the ability to graduate,” Caboni said.

Caboni also said ignoring students who may not be successful and burdening them with loan debt is “unfair to students.” He said they haven’t had conversations about officially changing admission standards yet, but those may happen in the future.

International and Honors Programs

While Caboni did not refer to WKU as “A Leading American University with International Reach,” former president Gary Ransdell’s tagline for the university, he did maintain the importance of an international program.

“International education will continue to be an important part of who we are,” Caboni said.

Caboni has already begun working to unite the international programs under one “umbrella,” and will begin a search this year for a Chief International Officer. Currently, Gordon Johnson, vice president of information technology, is serving as the interim chief officer.

By appointing Johnson as the interim officer, Caboni said there was no “self interest,” and Johnson could look at the data to make the best decisions for the program.

Caboni also said he will continue to look at how and where WKU is recruiting international students, and continue to build relationships that could lead to more recruitment of international students.

Additionally, Caboni said the Honors College will continue to be important to WKU, but he wanted to shift some of the focus to students

“Honors students are wonderful for this institution, but we can’t lose sight of the ‘bread-and-butter’ students that this university was built to educate,” Caboni said.

Caboni said the honors program “will continue to be great,” while beginning conversations about “how to shift some of our attention down the hill.”

Caboni spoke of the idea of a “first year village,” which would include living, dining, housing and social spaces in the same building, in order to build community. Caboni said he wants WKU to begin “thinking differently about how to address living-learning communities and student life across the entirety of this campus.”

“We need to make sure that every student who comes to WKU has the same quality and caliber of facilities as honors and international students do,” Caboni said.

Sodexo Employee Scholarships and Spousal Tuition Benefits

At the President’s Convocation on Aug. 18, Caboni announced a new scholarship program and the return of a spousal benefit program.

Sodexo, WKU’s partner for facilities management, has pledged $650,000 in scholarships to WKU over the next 13 years. According to a press release, that will result in $50,000 in scholarships per academic year.

Dependents of Sodexo employees who work at WKU, including spouses and children, will be eligible to apply for those scholarships beginning this year.

The second program that was announced on Friday was the return of spousal tuition benefits for WKU employees. The spousal tuition benefits program was cut during budget cuts last spring.

Caboni said after discussions with the community, he wanted to make clear “that this institutions’ strength is its human capital, the people who are working here and the programs in which they are working.”

Caboni said despite budget challenges, he wanted to be able to provide benefits for WKU employees.

“It’s symbolic of this – that even in times of scarce resources, we have to make sure we’re prioritizing growing our own human capital and taking care of our own,” Caboni said.

News Editor Monica Kast can be reached at 270-745-7011 or [email protected].