Paying it forward and getting it back: WKU is making a good move with 20-acre gift

THE ISSUE: WKU recently gave 20 acres of land to Hardin County Schools, which may seem like a step backward after all the construction and redoing the campus is currently undergoing.

OUR STANCE: While high school students will benefit from the academic building that will sit on this land, those kids will likely be future WKU students, and that bodes well for the university.

In 2007, the North Central Education Foundation — now the Central Kentucky Community Foundation — gave 20 acres of land to WKU. NCEF gave the gift, located near Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, with the intent that the land would be used for a higher education or similar facility.

In other words, we didn’t pay a penny for that land. Not only did we not pay for it, the administration said we had no plans to do anything with it. And why let a perfectly good 20 acres go to waste when Hardin County Schools just happens to be looking for a place for their career-minded high schoolers? Especially when these teens are seeking education in health science, engineering, manufacturing, transportation and culinary arts and hospitality services.

But with all the effort WKU has been putting into beefing up the campus (DUC, Ransdell Hall, the Kentucky Street Apartments and the future Honors College and International Center, anyone?), isn’t the university being a little contradictory? Not necessarily. Although some may say WKU will regret this gift later if it decides to expand its empire to those 20 acres it will no longer have, WKU is actually paying it forward. And reaping the benefits.

While in high school, the students in Hardin County can complete two years of dual credit classes. Then at ECTC, they will add two years of general education credit. Following those four years, the students can attend WKU on the main campus or the regional campuses in Hardin County to polish off what remains of a four-year degree from WKU.

To recap: WKU got free land. WKU wasn’t using it and gave it to someone who needed it. WKU is not paying for construction of the academic building, because Hardin County is picking up the tab. WKU will get an influx of students from this program. Not a bad gig for the Hill.

Now, we all know it’s not nice to give a gift only to gloat about what you got out of it. Not to belittle what Hardin County gains from this land. They’re helping goad countless high school students to higher education in various fields, which obviously has its benefits. But that’s not to say that WKU can’t be happy about welcoming these kids — and their tuition money — to the Hill in a few years.