Candidates narrowed for presidental search

Callie Miller

The presidential search committee confirmed the pool of candidates for WKU’s next president has been narrowed to 15 to 20 individuals at the Board of Regents meeting Friday, Oct. 28.

Regent Phillip Bale said he could not say when the decision will be made about a closed or open search. According to a press release in February, the pool should be narrowed to three to five candidates by December, and a final decision is expected to be made by March.

Journalism professor Mac McKerral spoke to the regents during the meeting about his opposition to a closed search.

“When the Board reaches a point where they’ve identified people that they think are worthy to bring to campus — final candidates — I can’t imagine how we would not be aware of who those people are and how that process is working,” McKerral said. “Just as important as those who we might hire is those who we didn’t hire.”

The Board voted unanimously to appoint President Gary Ransdell President Emeritus status. He will retire next summer.

As President Emeritus, he has not requested office space on campus, but if he is requested to represent WKU in an official capacity, he will be reimbursed for travel, letterhead and supplies. He will be provided with an office associate as well according to the agenda material from the board meeting.

There has been a 13.3 percent decrease in the Saudi student population, Chief Enrollment and Graduation Officer Brian Meredith said in his annual enrollment report. However, according to Meredith, other schools have seen a much larger decrease in Saudi students than WKU. Saudi Arabia is still the most represented country at WKU by a considerable margin even though the number has dropped 77 students from last year.

First-time freshmen have increased by 2.3 percent since last fall. 48 percent of these students have earned college credit before coming to WKU. The average GPA and ACT score remain at 3.27 and 23, respectively.

Sophomores have seen the biggest dip in numbers, with a 7 percent decrease and 211 fewer students. However, Ransdell mentioned this is partially because high school students are coming in with dual credits which gets them to their junior year faster.

Total enrollment jumped from 20,068 in fall 2015 to 20,277 according to the report. The student population has dropped by 78 since the beginning of this fall semester, but has increased 209 students since last fall, a 1 percent increase.

“Diversity remains high at WKU,” Meredith said. “They may not be large numbers, but they are positive.”

Faculty Regent Barbara Burch asked if some of the decreasing numbers would have an effect on the budget, but Meredith said it has yet to be determined.

Though more students are coming in with dual credits from high school, Ransdell said this trend may not be financially beneficial to WKU.

“The bad news is we weren’t generating much revenue from dual credit, and now we’re generating significantly fewer,” Ransdell said. “We’re barely operating at a break even pace for high school dual credit students. In fact, we’re probably operating at a loss.”

Ransdell said he felt encouraged by the growing numbers for first time freshmen, in-state students and those from Jefferson County. Ransdell said he is concerned about Warren and Barren Counties, and non-traditional students that continue to decrease, down 220 from last fall.

There has been a successful sale of bonds to finance the new parking garage. The target on refunding for savings was 5 percent, but the final savings were 8 percent, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Ann Mead said. The project will cost less than $10 million, which is under budget.

According to Chief Facilities Officer Bryan Russell, now there will be a seventh floor added with an extra 100 parking spots. The structure will have 601 more spaces than the current lot at Creason.

“We had an estimate of ten, we came in less, we increased the value of the size of the project and at the same time saved eight percent,” Regent John Ridley said, “That truly was a significant savings for being fiscally responsible. I applaud the efforts of everyone: finance area, the construction area, the students. I think we all should take ownership in this.”

The Board appointed Regent Gillard B. Johnson as Vice Chair and approved faculty emeritus appointments for Jerry Gotlieb, Keith Andrew, Charles Anderson, James Martin, John Hagaman, and Cassandra Pinnick.

Reporter Callie Miller can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @callie_miller8.