Dear Mr. President and Trustees,
The University of Kentucky has always been my home. I was born and raised in Lexington where I attended a very prestigious high school. During my senior year, I prepared one college application and one application only. That application was sent to the University of Kentucky, and I was excited to attend my dream school right here at home.
After a long, tumultuous journey, I have reached my 4th year, and I am only three semesters away from graduating. But I have noticed a terrible realization during my time here. Something just doesn’t feel right.
A few months ago, you were in a very public tug-of-war with Governor Matt Bevin over whether or not the university could afford budget cuts from the state. In the middle of the battle, I found myself asking an enlightening question: Why are these two institutions fighting over who gets my money? Where is my say in this struggle between government and university?
When I leave the university next year, I will enter the workforce with nearly $35,000 in loan debt. I have agreed to give the government, state and federal, my money, so that they will pay the university the outrageous amount of money it demands on my behalf.
It is time for this university and many other universities around the nation to start doing some major self-evaluation.
How do you define success? Revenues and increased enrollment?
If so, then yes, you along with the board of trustees have done a phenomenal job over the past few years. The board approved a record-breaking budget this year of $3 billion.
The upcoming freshman class is expected to be nearly 5,000 students and once again, set enrollment records. Congratulations, but is that the goal we’re striving for? Is is about quantity or quality?
In reading through the budget, it became clear to me that the mission is getting people in the doors at all costs. It is simple, the more people we get in, the more revenue we generate meaning we can spend more on getting even more people in. It’s a vicious money-making merry-go-round that reminds me of a pyramid scheme.
The truth is, students aren’t going to pick their educational institution based on big buildings, lavish dorm living and restaurant choices. And if that’s what is making their choices, they aren’t looking for higher education.
All the words about ‘recruiting’ and finding ‘diversity’ and other diplomatic, progressive words used in the budget just leave my wondering why we’re looking for these things instead of looking for students who want to come here to do what higher education should be doing: education.
My living standards on campus have diminished with the unquantifiable influx of expansion on every corner. Traffic has become a nightmare. The entire campus is in ruins right now and it looks unattractive, causes major disruption and has interfered with the student body’s ability to learn.
I understand renovating and every once in a while expanding the campus. But there are currently 26 projects on a campus of about 2 square miles. How can that be justified?
We have a beautiful campus. But I don’t know that from walking to class and attending events as a student. I know that from when my parents used to walk me through their alma mater as a child in the summer. My memories of this campus as I get set to leave are orange cones, busted cement, loud noises and construction equipment.
Commuter students still can not park to go to class or attend things they need to attend without paying even more money than we already do. Often times the choice comes down to missing class or paying a parking ticket, hoping you haven’t reached enough to have your car booted. I commuted my freshman year. I made that choice daily and paid gravely for it.
Current students, who are paying a 3 percent increase in tuition from last year, are having to eat their lunch in a temporary building surrounded by noise and disruption so the students of the future can enjoy an oversized, overloaded student center.
We call these things ‘investments’, but even without pursuing a business degree I can tell you these are not investments into anything more than increased enrollment. Tuition will continue to rise. Expansion and renovation will never stop. Revenue will keep going up, but so will expenses.
You want real investment? Stop giving current staff salary increases every single year, and use that extra revenue to acquire more staff so that students can have more than a 20:1 professor-student ratio. Stop building libraries that are the biggest in the nation, but still have to keep some rooms empty because there is not enough material to fill them while students go without meals and have to give up having gas in their vehicles in order to purchase required materials for the classroom.
Stop investing in numbers and statistics. Invest in us.
I can’t tell you how many of my colleagues and friends have said something along the lines of, ‘I would have been better off not going to school’. Many of us are working two or three jobs to pay our rent, eat daily meals and pay off our tuition. How are we supposed to get a quality education if we’re worried about everything but education?
I understand that college is a struggle. It is not supposed to be easy and we are not supposed to have anything handed to us. But you are not the only ones interested in investing. We want a return on our investment as well. And in my opinion, from the small sample of fellow students I have been around, we don’t feel like we are getting a return.
As a journalism major, I want us to invest in working cameras for our broadcast students so we don’t have to wonder if we can cover a story without a malfunction or broken elements, not a new taco bell and french bistro.
I want our college of agriculture to be able to staff enough employees for the students and faculty to conduct research instead of worrying about who is going to cut the grass in the pastures. Not dorm rooms that are nicer than most off-campus apartment complexes that cost $900 per month.
I have some sources that have let me know how money is being spent on campus. I have heard claims so outrageous that we are about to spend millions of dollars to renovate a dorm building on campus that we fully intend on tearing down within the next few years. That is a disgrace if it’s true.
What we are doing is not investing in our students. We are investing in a collegiate nuclear arms race driven toward getting as many people in the doors as we can to increase profits and earn praises.
College has become a bureaucracy. Nobody is held accountable and the interests of the few who lead us have been put ahead of those for which the institution was created.
I don’t expect my letter to reach you, and I certainly don’t expect it to have an impact on any decisions that are being made. But I do hope that my fellow students may read it as well, and if they experience the same sentiments I have, they will begin to say enough it enough. If my opinions are popular ones, I hope students will begin to express their thoughts and make some changes. Then maybe we will see a return on our investment.
Sincerely with all due respect,
Connor W. Evanoff,