Developmental education to remain at WKU for now

Cameron Koch

Feelings of fear and uncertainty are running high on South Campus, with many developmental education faculty wondering if they will have a job in the coming months and years.

The worries prompted a visit to South Campus from Richard Miller, vice provost and chief diversity officer, to meet with faculty on Thursday afternoon and to lay to rest rumors that had spread of WKU outsourcing its developmental education courses to Bowling Green Technical College.

“We cannot farm out developmental education to a technical college, pure and simple,” Miller said. “Why would we farm out all our developmental education to another institution and lose all the revenue?”

Developmental courses are classes taught on South Campus designed to prepare students for college level reading, writing and math. Students in developmental courses do not receive credit hours for those courses.

Miller said the rumors that WKU “wants to get out of the business” of developmental education are not true but did say that cuts to developmental education are coming as a result of Kentucky Senate Bill 1.

Senate Bill 1, in part, aims to cut the commitment to developmental education by 50 percent at all public universities by 2014.

Brian Meredith, associate vice president for Enrollment Management, said in an email that he is not aware of any plans to outsource or downsize developmental courses and that the university is working to provide as much support as possible to unprepared students to help them achieve their degree goals.

Michelle Jackson, associate professor of mathematics on South Campus, voiced her concerns to Miller that if the rumor of getting rid of developmental education isn’t true, then administrators need to choose their words more carefully.

Jackson also said that more communication between developmental education faculty and university administrators needs to take place.

“I think we feel like we don’t have any representation because we are not included,” she said. “If discussions are going on about developmental education, then someone who is actually involved in developmental education should be included in those meetings.”

The rumors aren’t entirely false, however.

President Gary Ransdell said he does want to wean the university off of developmental education but said it isn’t going to happen in the near future.

“That is our goal, but a couple of things have to occur,” Ransdell said. “We have to have high schools better prepare students for higher education, and then we need to gradually improve our admissions standards to where we’re bringing students here who are capable of performing in a higher education curriculum.

“That should be our goal, and that is our goal as a university. I would think any university would have a similar intent… but that’s not anything that can be done in the near term — not next semester, not next year but over the course of the next several years — that should be our intent: to gradually to grow out of the developmental education business.”

Ransdell said that though that is the long term goal, at the moment there are too many at-risk students in need of the courses to think of eliminating developmental education any time soon.

“Until our public schools do a better job of preparing students who are college-bound, there is going to be a need for developmental courses,” he said.