GOVERNOR'S REMARKS ON POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION
AUGUST 24, 1996


Thank you all. Thank you very much. I really appreciate you giving up your Saturday and coming to Frankfort to share with us your unique perspective and your knowledge and I sincerely hope that 20 years from now you will be able to look back and say yes I gave up a Saturday and I gave up other days but I was a part of one of the two most momentous decisions made by the people of Kentucky in the 20th century.

That is my challenge to you. I invited you here not as advocates for your institutions but to work on behalf of all of the people of this Commonwealth using the unique knowledge that you have accumulated by being a part of your institution.

We have assembled here today in two groups. Customers and providers. And it is our charge to design a system of postsecondary institutions in Kentucky that will provide in the most simple terms what we the people of Kentucky need, where we need it, in the most efficient way.

Our customers are the students and the businesses of Kentucky. As the video made it very plain, education is the cornerstone of economic development. So our institutions must provide the kinds of skills that our businesses need.

Our goal is for our people to get their education in Kentucky and then use that education in Kentucky. Certainly the businesses of Kentucky are very, very important customers of the products of our producers, but there is another customer and that's the student.

We have a responsibility to our students to provide them with the education that they want, to provide them with the education that will allow them to use their mental capacity to its maximum and if they can't use that in Kentucky then they at least ought to have the opportunity to get it and use it wherever in the world it can be marketed. So those are the customers of postsecondary education, the students and the businesses.

The providers are our universities, our community colleges, our technical schools, our private non-profit colleges and our proprietary schools, all represented here today. With each of the institutions we talk about management, we talk about the faculty and we talk about student body. That in general describes this group.

Later on we'll divide you up into individual sections to give you more details of what we are asking of you. You will organize yourself in this individual section to continue to advise this task force. The task force will continue its work through next April or May. At that time we will continue to work with you and the various advisory groups as we implement the changes that we as a community decide to make.

I've asked you to come here today to consider change because what we have now is not good enough for the next century. We built a great nation on what I call muscle power, with a few people doing the thinking and a lot of people following the instructions. That was good enough for yesterday but that's not good enough for tomorrow.

Because we now live in a world with instant communication, cheap and fast transportation. We are part of a worldwide economy where other people with muscle power in other countries will do the manual labor and work for a much lower standard of living then we will work for.

And so the only way that this nation can continue to enjoy a continually increasing standard of living, which is a part of our history throughout our existence, is to compete and win with mental power, mental capital. That is the only thing that has true value in our society that will keep us ahead. It is these institutions that I speak of and these individuals that I talk about that provide that for our Commonwealth.

The challenge to our public institution is to change, to adapt, to be more efficient, to provide more services to more people with yes, more money. I understand that more money is a part of it. I am redesigning state government from the ground up in order to free up existing money to apply to postsecondary education in the Commonwealth. But neither I nor the General Assembly is willing to put more money in the system that exists today because we know we can do better.

I've often wondered why Kentucky, with all the advantages we had 200 years ago, ended up last in almost every measure of positive economic growth and opportunity. We started out so far ahead. The first state developed west of the Alleghenies on the nation's major transportation artery, the Ohio River. Louisville was the transportation center of the developing Midwest. Lexington was the education center competing with all of the country at that time with Transylvania University. Dr. Ephraim McDowell was pioneering medical techniques. When the catholic church began its expansion on this continent from a diocese in Baltimore, they established four new dioceses, one in Boston, one in Philadelphia, one in New York and one in Bardstown, Kentucky.

That's where Kentucky was 200 years ago. Poised on the era of tremendous development and prosperity in this part of our nation and a leader in every respect. And yet we didn't take advantage of it, quite frankly, because our leadership did not have the vision, the courage and the willingness that it takes to be a leader.

John Ed Pearce once wrote, "In the civil war, Kentucky was neutral and did not take sides but after the war we sided with the loser." We emulated the agrarian south instead of the industrial north. We lived for today. We enjoyed low tax burden at the sacrifice of investment and infrastructure. We didn't invest in roads, we didn't invest in canals, we didn't invest in the things the rest of the country was investing in. Most of all, we did not invest in education.

I lay all of the blame on the relative low economic standing of our Commonwealth directly at the feet of 100 years of neglect of education in the century following the Civil War. I believe that we have seen the errors of our way. Six years ago the leadership of this Commonwealth, primarily the legislature with the help of the executive and a boost from our judicial system, made a historic, courageous decision. They said we're going to fundamentally change forever our elementary and secondary education system and we're going to do what it takes to finance it.

That was our legislature's finest hour. I am committed to do all within my power to see that that program is carried through, that improvements are made and that commitment is kept.

As we continue our journey from last to first in education, today we are taking the second step in the process. Elementary and secondary education is the foundation, the foundation that we must have. We cannot build a great building on a weak foundation, and so we have addressed first things first.

But a foundation is just that. In of itself it's not something we can utilize to realize our ultimate goal. When we build a foundation, we must also build the building and the building is higher education. And higher education is any and all education beyond high school. The opportunities are great. The challenges are great. We cannot fail. We must give the appropriate stature in resources to every level of postsecondary education. The needs of our society are great.

We must think "out-of-the-box." We must not transmit to our young people the theory that everybody ought to have a four-year baccalaureate degree because our society doesn't need everyone to have a four-year baccalaureate degree. We need to produce what we need.

That certainly includes a generous sprinkling of technical and vocational education, because, let's be frank about it, for all practical purposes, all postsecondary education is vocational education. There was a time 200 years ago when a liberal arts education was something for the aristocracy. That kind of education wasn't really necessary 200 years ago for the average American because at that time we were primarily an agrarian economy. But the well-to-do sought that education to enjoy a greater quality of life and appreciation for the arts and culture.

I don't discount the benefits of a liberal arts education for the purposes of civilizing our society, to make us more human, to make us more compassionate, more understanding and more enlightened. But the reason we invest 65% of the tax dollars of the people of this Commonwealth in education is to compete economically, so we can make a living.

Whether it be a doctor or an accountant or a lawyer or an engineer or an electrician or a plumber or a hydraulic repairman or an automotive technician, they are all vocations that are vital to an economy. We must have every one of them. So I want you to help us design a system that works together again to produce what we need, where we need it, in the most efficient way.

I ask you to put aside regional biases. I ask you to put aside institutional preferences. As the Governor of Kentucky, I must do the same. I must look out for what is good for all of the state, every citizen, every county, every community. Until we utilize all of our people in every region of this state to their maximum capacity then we cannot be all that we as a society can be and must be to compete.

To the extent that one citizen of this Commonwealth has not been afforded the opportunity to develop their maximum mental capacity, we as a society suffer and we as a society pay. So, I am asking you from this day forth until we finish this work, to give us the benefit of what you have learned because of your particular position in your particular institution.

Look at it from the big picture. Look at it from the position of the Governor of this Commonwealth, responsible for all of the people. Look at it from the standpoint of doing it differently, think "out-of-the-box."

I know that change is hard. But we can't be better if we don't change. The one sure path to oblivion is to maintain the status quo. The rest of the world won't wait. The rest of the United States won't wait.

I know how difficult change is in government. I've been in it almost 15 years. I've been in business 20 years. Change is difficult in business too. The one great big difference in business is that if you don't change we as a society don't really have to worry about that too much because somebody else will come and take your customer base.

If you want to be a Sears and stick with a formula that was immensely successful 60 years ago and you don't want to change, don't worry, Sam Walton will come along and develop a new marketing technique and take your customers.

But you see, it's not that way in government. Because government is a monopoly. Government does not have competition. Government is run by the owners who are also the customers. And so when we in government make a change that adversely affects one individual, that one individual is going to scream to the governor, to the legislator, to the senator, to whomever that they can get access to.

But yet all the rest of our society that benefited by that change didn't realize that they benefited. And that's the challenge that we face. Trying to figure out how we can have the courage to understand that a positive change will bring about pain, but it will also bring about progress.

I have been asked why we have proprietary schools in this forum today. Well, I have been advised by a lot of people that if the public institutions aren't willing to change and adapt to the market, the proprietary schools will. In fact, they're already doing it. They're offering educational opportunities, and educational products, and educational services in ways that are so efficient that they can compete with the public schools without the public subsidy. And I've heard experts say that if higher education, particularly our four-year institutions, doesn't change, it'll be displaced by the private sector.

But I don't believe that will happen here in Kentucky. I know we will always have a need for that traditional four-year university to serve that traditional post high school student in the 18 to 24 year range in a residential setting on the campus at Murray, Morehead, and Eastern, and UK, and UofL. We will always have that need and we will hope that all of our young people will take advantage of the educational opportunities.

But we need more because we have to understand that some of our students are more adaptive and can make a better living going directly into a more technically oriented program scattered throughout the Commonwealth. And we understand and accept the unfortunate fact that some of those traditional students are not yet mature enough to take advantage of the traditional four year college opportunity.

And we must seriously consider whether we're going to invest substantial amounts of money in students that either cannot or will not exhibit the maturity that it takes to absorb the education that is set before them. But we also recognize that even when 18 to 22 year old students don't have the maturity at that age, they usually gain it in a few years, when they are thrust out in the real world of work, when they find out that they are responsible for themselves, that Mom and Dad will no longer pay the bills. Only then are they serious enough to absorb an education.

But by then they are place-bound, with a family, they have established a household and they have a job. And so they are going to have to get that education in the community in which they live, on a timetable that fits their schedule. And so we must look at having community-based education.

Some people say we have sacrificed quality for quantity. I say we do not have enough of either. I support the concept that every person in Kentucky should have access to an adequate educational opportunity in any part of this state whether it be in an actual classroom or whether it be by some electronic means.

Yes we need more education. We still are not producing the number of baccalaureate nor technical nor associate degrees that we must, if we are going to meet the nation's average. We are so far behind that for me it's not enough that our current crop of production meets the nation's average. I demand that our current crop of production exceed the nation's average.

Because only then, can we reach our maximum potential. I guess I can go for another 15 minutes but I hope you get the message that I am serious as I can be. I will stake my entire governorship on this effort. I will utilize all of the resources that are at my command to make sure that we do the right thing for all of the people of Kentucky. I will not tolerate selfishness. I will not tolerate short sightedness and I will not tolerate turf.

With KERA (Kentucky Education Reform Act) we had the Supreme Court driving us with their ruling that our system was unconstitutional. Our legislature stepped up to the plate and met the challenge.

In this instance, we don't have that driving force of a Supreme Court decision, but I intend to be a driving force. I ask our students and businesses, the customers of higher education, to be a driving force, because we have a tremendous challenge ahead of us. Not only the challenge of determining what is the best system for Kentucky, but the challenge of change. The challenge of resisting the status quo. The challenge of opting for the safe and known instead of venturing out to the unknown, the dangerous, the treacherous, the risky, but the only place that we can find prosperity.

That is the challenge that is before you, that is the opportunity that is before you. That is the task that I know that you are up to.

Again, thank you for coming up. I look forward to your work and I look forward to working with you in the years ahead. Thank you very very much.