The Kentucky General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted House Bill 7 last week, authorizing the University of Kentucky to self-finance three projects totaling $275 million. Two of these include a renovation and expansion of the Gatton College of Business and Economics, as well as construction of a new science building. However, the main project turning heads will be an unprecedented $110 million investment into the educational experience of UK’s 20,000 undergraduates and 7,000 graduate students.
The staggering amount is predicted to kick start UK’s lagging academic culture, currently characterized by overcrowded classrooms, overworked academic advisers, and overreliance on graduate student teaching assistants.
“This move underscores our commitment to putting our undergraduate and graduate students first in everything that we do,” said President Eli Capilouto in a press release earlier this week. “Our students are our top priority. There’s no better way for a university to spend $110 million than on improving what an university is all about: education.”
Consider that just $10 million would be enough to add 80 top-quality professors to the university’s payroll or to grant 500 full tuition out-of-state scholarships. Even a paltry $5 million could buy 14 brand new 2013 Lamborghini Murcielagos; 2,700 15-inch MacBook Pro’s; or 700,000 box combos at Cane’s (that’s enough Cane’s to eat three meals every single day for the next 639 years). Just $1 million would buy enough student ID’s to construct a stack halfway up Patterson Office Tower; more than 100 bathtubs of Grey Goose; or a seven-minute conversation with Johnny Depp.
To put things in perspective, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s new 70,000-person state-of-the-art football stadium, which was built in 2011, only cost $75 million to construct.
Students on campus are overjoyed at the prospect of reaping the benefits of UK’s aggressive investment into their futures.
“I’ve been a little disappointed with class sizes and the lack of tutoring options on campus,” said freshman Catherine Held. “But I can’t wait to see what all this money will be able to do for my academic and personal development. It’s really great to be able to know that I’m going to a university whose leaders care for my livelihood.”
UK Athletics has been instrumental in the funding, providing every single cent of the $110 million, as well as adding more than $65 million to the construction costs of the newly proposed science building.
“We’re more than happy to contribute to the academic experience of our students,” explained athletics director Mitch Barnhart. “Athletics are an important aspect of the college experience, don’t get me wrong, but intellectual progress is what an institution meant for higher education should focus on. After all, sports are just that: sports.”
Barnhart added: “UK administration has clearly decided that focusing on students is more important than focusing on the profit margin of athletics. Some athletics directors around the country would be upset about this, but I respect it.”
President Capilouto echoed these sentiments. “At first, we were thinking about simply investing in a brand new academic building and the expansion of Gatton. But then we realized that you can’t improve by simply redesigning physical structures. The people inside the structures, professors and students alike, have to be provided with the most resources possible.”
Concluded Capilouto, “Here at the UK, we spend money on people, not things.”
by Jeff Lipscomb