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"Where Opportunity Leads"


View from the Hill - Opportunity Fund Video Preview


Why We Gave
“I always wanted to do something for the school because Western did a lot for me, and I really appreciate that.” - Dr. Hugh Wilhite



The tradition of funding opportunities for WKU students began in 1923 when founder Dr. Henry Hardin Cherry received a $100 gift from a faculty member. Continuing the spirit of providing access and opportunity, WKU President Timothy C. Caboni announced the creation of the WKU Opportunity Fund at his Investiture in April 2018.

A focused fundraising campaign to remove barriers for access to education, the WKU Opportunity Fund was announced with a goal of $50 million. At the 2021 WKU Faculty and Staff Convocation on Aug. 16, 2021, President Caboni shared that the University had raised $51.8 million, surpassing the initial goal. Under the banner “Where Opportunity Leads,” the goal has been extended to raise an additional $50 million, bringing the total to $100 million.

The WKU Opportunity Fund is one of the strategic initiatives included in Climbing to Greater Heights: The WKU Strategic Plan 2018-2028.

Why do we need the WKU Opportunity Fund?

  • There is a shortfall in renewable resources available for scholarships.
  • Students from Kentucky represent 77% of our student population.
  • First-generation undergraduate college students represent 33% of our population.
  • Full-time undergraduate students receiving financial assistance represent 63% of our population.
  • Financial ability is often the only impediment hindering a student from taking advantage of career-enhancing experiences like unpaid internships or cultural and lifelong learning opportunities like study abroad.
  • Emergency situations arise that can prevent a student from persisting to graduation.
  • Campus employment opportunities are convenient and beneficial to both the student and employer but are limited.

The WKU Opportunity Fund has three areas of priority: Recruitment, Retention, and Beyond the Classroom.

We invite you to explore the links below to learn more about the WKU Opportunity Fund and how you can make a difference in the life of a WKU student.


WKU’s core mission is to provide access and opportunity for students from the Commonwealth to be part of the WKU Family regardless of their ability to contribute to the cost of an education. Almost all of our students receive some type of assistance, but every situation and award package is different. For many who pursue a college degree, increasing costs and inadequate financial aid present significant challenges.

By securing private resources to assist our students through scholarships, we can remove barriers and improve student persistence and completion rates. Scholarship support allows students to focus on their education without the prospect of leaving college with significant personal debt. By offering renewable scholarships, WKU relieves students and their families from the burden of mounting student debt.

Financial challenges are not unique to Pell-eligible students. The majority of our students face similar financial challenges. The shortfall for our students ranges from $2,000-$6,000 per semester.

In addition to the challenge of securing support for the costs associated with registering and attending the University, many students are also faced with financial obstacles related to their day-to-day lives that further impede their ability to complete their education.

By securing private resources to assist our students through retention funds, we can establish a dedicated pool of funds available to help students with emergency needs that may impact their ability to continue their education. These retention funds are designed to provide funding to help address a verified need associated with a student’s education. This type of funding may be designated for tuition, course fees, books, housing, transportation, or other relevant needs.

Through private support, WKU can ensure that students are able to persist and graduate.

Beyond efforts to recruit and retain students, the WKU Opportunity Fund will also enable our students to access educational experiences that might otherwise remain out of their reach. It will help students attend conferences, study abroad, pursue research, participate in national internships, present papers, and take part in other opportunities to help them prepare for life and work.

Some examples of educational-enriching experiences include:

Study Abroad: Research shows that education abroad leads to higher retention and graduation rates.  International experiences contribute to the preparation of productive, adaptable, engaged, and socially responsible citizen leaders in our global society, and WKU is committed to helping students from diverse backgrounds to study abroad.

Study Away: Study Away allows students to experience travel and learning within the United States. This type of experience provides innovative learning opportunities for our students, as well as a sense of discovery through the application of theory to real-world experiences.

Internships and Work Study: Internships and work study placements are common ways for students to gain applied work experience and skills in the field of their choice. Such experiences on and off campus provide valuable mentorship opportunities and teach students critical soft skills not always covered in the classroom.

Scholarly Endeavors: Providing resources for student discovery and innovation is a tenet of the WKU experience. Student research, service, and other scholarly endeavors can reveal avenues to success a student might not have initially considered.

Through private support, the WKU Opportunity Fund will unlock crucial and meaningful experiences designed to enhance classroom learning that often seem unattainable to students who are struggling to make ends meet.

The WKU Opportunity Fund is a donor-driven fundraising effort to benefit students at WKU through endowed support.

Among many important outcomes, your investment could:

  • Allow the University to recruit students by offering renewable scholarships to fill the shortfall in available resources.
  • Enable the University to continue to support students from Kentucky, which represents 78% of our student population.
  • Allow the University to continue to serve first-generation undergraduate college students, who represent 35% of our population.
  • Further help meet the needs of our full-time undergraduate students who are receiving financial assistance, which represents 64% of our population.
  • Allow the University to award funds to students who find themselves in an emergency, ensuring they can persist to graduation.
  • Enable the University to award more study abroad grants to increase retention and provide cultural and lifelong learning opportunities.
  • Provide students who would otherwise be unable to pursue an unpaid internship with the ability to apply their learning to their field of interest without the burden of worry over financial soundness.
  • Increase the ability of the University to hire students seeking employment opportunities on campus.
Your support will ensure that permanently endowed funds will support student-centered initiatives and positively affect the lives of future generations of Hilltoppers.
All funds within the WKU Opportunity Fund will be administered according to a donor’s wishes through the appropriate University foundation. As with all philanthropic gifts to the University, donors may direct their support to a college or area of their choosing.
When describing an endowment, the key word is everlasting. When you create an endowed fund, your donation is invested, allowing the principal to remain intact and grow over time. The original gift is never spent, but rather a portion of the investment return is used to provide ongoing permanent support. Your individual endowed fund becomes a part of the overall permanent endowment, yet still maintains a separate identity. Through an endowment, you have the unique opportunity to reach beyond the limits of time—to forever make a positive difference.

For general questions about the WKU Opportunity Fund, please email opportunityfund@wku.edu.

For specific questions related to the WKU Opportunity Fund and how to support this student-centered initiative, please contact Kacy S. Caboni, Director of Principal Gifts & Special Initiatives, at kacy.caboni@wku.edu or (270) 745-6208; Amanda L. Trabue, Vice President of Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement, at amanda.trabue@wku.edu or (270) 745-6208; or Donald Smith, President of the College Heights Foundation, at donald.smith@wku.edu or (270) 745-4597.

For a full listing of Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement staff, please click here.

Some of the links on this page may require additional software to view.

 Last Modified 7/18/23