Regents press conference
Aug. 31, 2001

Thank you all for coming out this afternoon to this historical press conference with the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville.

This event today is proof that we have advanced in so many ways and continue to move in the right direction since in 1997.

I want the university presidents to touch on their progress in a few minutes but first I want to brag a little on how we are meeting the reform goals.

Addressing our postsecondary education system has been one of the greatest issues this administration has faced. This system is crucial in providing the human capital needed to allow the Commonwealth to be a leader in the global economy of the 21st century.

Here is what we have accomplished:

In 1997, Kentucky’s citizens went to college at rates far below the national average.  In fall 2000, there were 7,600 more Kentuckians enrolled in postsecondary education than there were in 1998. 

That number will continue to grow as we provide Kentuckians with a variety of ways to enter the postsecondary system. An example is the Kentucky Virtual University, which is the most successful startup of its kind in the nation, providing our citizens with the courses they need any time and anywhere.  

Enrollment in the courses offered by the virtual university has increased from 200 to more than 4,700 in just two years. And as it defines its market, its primary attention is on two-year degrees, certificates, workplace training, adult education and selected master’s degrees.

We are, also, giving Kentuckians greater access to resources for teaching and learning.  The Kentucky Virtual Library now handles more than 600,000 searches a month from public school students, adult learners, people in the workforce and researchers.

In 1997, we challenged our community and technical colleges to work together to provide better and more efficient workforce training and greater access to postsecondary education. The Kentucky Community and Technical College System has been an unqualified success. In less than three years, it has become one of the chief trainers of employees statewide. 

Between 1998 and 2000, enrollment in our community and technical colleges went up almost 15 percent. Enrollment is increasing again this fall, especially in our technical colleges.

At the same time, we are increasing the intellectual talent at our research institutions. “Bucks for Brains” has matched, dollar for dollar, more than $200 million raised at the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. That’s $400 million added to their endowment.  There’s another $60 million being added to the endowments of our six comprehensive universities. 

This effort has allowed UK and U of L to increase the number of endowed chairs from 47 to 123; endowed professorships have increased from 55 to 172.  The program is attracting national and international attention and world-class scholars and research teams. 

For example, the world’s first successful implantation of the AbioCor Replacement Heart has brought international attention to the University of Louisville, Jewish Hospital and Kentucky.  “Bucks for Brains” made it possible for U of L to attract scientists whose research has been critical to this and other accomplishments.

In 2000, we realized that a critical piece of the education puzzle is the part of Kentucky’s adult population that lacks basic skills.  So we turned our attention to adult education.  In less than 18 months, enrollment in our adult education programs in Kentucky has increased from 50,000 to 63,000.  This year we’ll reach 75,000, and we’ll be at 100,000 two years later.

Again in 1997, we needed to help our colleges and universities meet these and other challenges in new ways.  We have created trust funds that have helped focus our collective attention on the challenges of increasing enrollments, retaining more students, improving teacher quality, building programs of distinction and developing Kentucky’s intellectual capital.

We wanted to change the culture of postsecondary education in Kentucky.  We needed our colleges and universities to look beyond their individual needs and aspirations and begin the hard work of building a system that serves the needs of all Kentuckians in an efficient and effective way. 

We are doing that as UK and U of L take a major step to link their planning, computing and research initiatives together -- which we will see here today.

The challenges we face in Kentucky are too great and the needs of our fellow Kentuckians too important to settle for anything less than a fully cooperative spirit. Having said that, I will turn it over to our guest and let them tell you about their collaborative efforts.