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Jr. says that part of his mission is to help “build a fabric of
approval for higher education among Kentuckians.” Using
a metaphor from one of the state’s favorite sports, Todd said
that “coaches will say that a player has a great basketball IQ.
We want Kentuckians to have a great research IQ and a great
cultural IQ.”
Some in Kentucky are skeptical that UK can become one
of the nation’s top 20 research institutions. (UK ranked 63rd
out of 100 top institutions in federal funds for academic
research in 2004, the National Science Foundation reported.)
But in fiscal year 2005, UK researchers brought in a record
$273.9 million in outside grants and contracts—the fourth
year in a row that the university exceeded $200 million in
sponsored project awards.
Since 1997, UK has increased the number of endowed
chairs (each supported by at least $1 million) from 22 to
88, with 56 of them filled, and endowed professorships
($100,000 minimum endowment) from 45 to 226, with 134
filled. Among those joining the UK faculty through “Bucks
for Brains” financing have been Gail Robinson, who headed
the young talent development program at the Metropolitan
Opera and who now teaches voice; David Wildasin, an
economist who came from Vanderbilt; and Greg Gearhardt,
a professor of anatomy from the University of Colorado who
is studying Parkinson’s disease.
However, UK faculty salaries, which averaged $71,026 in
2004, lag behind those of its benchmark institutions, such
as UCLA, the University of Michigan and Ohio State, where
the median salaries were $81,681 last year. As a result, the
university has lost some outstanding faculty members to
other institutions. Officials cite the examples of Mike Desch,
who left the Patterson School of Diplomacy directorship to
go to Texas A&M, and Winston Ho, a chemical engineer
who left for Ohio State University soon after being named to
the National Academy of Engineering.
Todd pointed out that UK lost $73 million in cumulative
cuts from 2001 to 2004, then received $18 million in
additional appropriations this year. “We had had a pretty
rapid ramp upward after the legislation was passed, but then
it plateaued,” he said.
JohnThelin, a professor in UK’s educational policy
studies department, thinks the university administration
is being a bit unfair in talking about how much money it
has lost since 2001, because that year was such a high water
mark. Thelin believes that Kentucky “has been relatively
generous to higher education and allows it flexibility. It
doesn’t micromanage.” And he considers the action of
Governor Fletcher and the legislature this year a “mild win-
win situation.”
University of Louisville President James Ramsey, who
was Patton’s budget director when House Bill 1 passed, said
that the reforms brought a broader public agenda to the state
than just teaching English and math efficiently. The reforms
created an energy on his campus that has lasted despite
budget cuts, he said.
Louisville is concentrating its efforts on research and
teaching in the life sciences and medicine, early childhood
education, entrepreneurship, and logistics and distribution
(that is, focusing on getting goods to market), according
to Ramsey. Much of the money
it has received from the state
and in federal grants has gone
into the health sciences area. For
example, Bucks for Brains money
helped bring Donald Miller
from the University of Alabama,
Birmingham, to run the James
Graham Brown Cancer Center. Eric
Lentsch, an otolaryngologist, came
from the M.D. Anderson Cancer
Center in Houston to study how
neck and head cancers invade and
Bucks for Brains faces an uncertain future. The final
round to date—in the 2002-04 biennium—was financed
by state-supported bonds. For 2004-06 the Council on
Postsecondary Education requested $61 million for the
program, but it was not funded. There is some talk that the
bigger need now is for additional space for all the researchers
who have been hired, yielding the possibility of a “Bucks for
Bricks” program, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Although much of the newmoney to implement the
reforms has gone to UK and the University of Louisville,
the six regional campuses—Eastern Kentucky, Western
Kentucky, Northern Kentucky, Kentucky State, Morehead
State and Murray—also have benefited. For example, at
Northern Kentucky, the Center for Integrative Natural
Mike McCall is president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System,
where enrollment increased from 52,201 to 81,990 between 2000 and 2004.
“I hope the universities
will concentrate on
trying to make the
pie bigger instead of
fighting over the pieces.”
—Paul Patton,
former governor of Kentucky
Elaine Shay for CrossTalk