Four Big Wins
- Friday, December 11th, 2020
Dear Faculty and Staff,
As we approach the end of the term, I would like to take some time to reflect on the tremendous achievements of the past calendar year. While we have celebrated these successes individually, taking them as a whole highlights WKU’s significant positive momentum. Pausing briefly from our daily tasks to reflect on our collective efforts, I hope you recognize the significance of what you have accomplished. We continue to navigate successfully amid incredibly difficult externalities, along with an increasingly complex and rapidly changing higher education landscape, all while creating a bright future for our university.
The work of the WKU Community has been extraordinary. Faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends pressed forward toward the goals detailed in our 10-year strategic plan, Climbing to Greater Heights. Though the list of recent successes is extensive, I will review the following four highlights with the Board of Regents during today’s meeting:
- RECRUITMENT: In fall 2020, we saw the largest one-year increase in the size of our freshman class than at any time during the past three decades, up 406 students from fall 2019. This group also brought with it the highest high school GPA in WKU’s history.
- RETENTION: In just three years (AY 2017 – 20), WKU’s first-to-second-year student retention increased 6.9 percentage points, and underrepresented minority (URM) retention jumped 15.2 percentage points - both representing the largest three-year increases in WKU’s history.
- GRADUATION: In 2020, our six-year graduation rate rose to 55.1% (up from 50.7% in AY 2017). This represents the highest six-year graduation rate ever at WKU. During the same time, WKU achieved the highest URM and low-income six-year graduation rates in eight years and awarded more than 3,000 bachelor’s degrees - more than the institution has awarded in any previous academic year.
- ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITY: The newly revamped freshman scholarship model, coupled with aggressive affordability marketing and outreach, created historic growth in the fall 2020 freshman class by more than doubling the number of freshmen receiving scholarships compared to fall 2019, with nearly 84% receiving merit awards to help fund their education. Since its inception in 2017, the WKU Opportunity Fund, a fundraising effort to support our students, has already grown to $45 million of its $50 million target with 129 new endowed scholarship funds.
Simply put, more students are coming to WKU because we have made it attractive and more accessible than ever before; more students are staying and completing their degrees because we have grown and enhanced our targeted student-support structure; and more graduates are choosing to remain in Kentucky because of the growing partnerships in our 27-county service region and beyond. A more comprehensive update on our strategic plan metrics can be found here.
You are creating important and life-changing positive effects for our Students, our Hill, our Community and Beyond. I am proud of what we have achieved together, and I look forward to continuing this important work with you in 2021.
Timothy C. Caboni