University of Kentucky Provost Tim Tracy will reorganize several large administrative units this summer, a move that he said will result in some job losses but ultimately help students achieve their goals.
The main impetus for the change is UK’s five-year strategic plan, adopted in 2015 with some lofty goals, including big jumps in graduation and retention rates. By 2020, according to the plan, the six-year graduation rate should rise from 60.2 percent to 70 percent. The percentage of students who stay in school between their first and second years is supposed to reach 90 percent, up from the current 82.7 percent. The plan also calls for closing significant gaps in graduation and retention for under-represented student populations.
“To make that kind of change in graduation and retention, we need to make some bold moves,” Tracy said.
The affected units are undergraduate education, student affairs, enrollment management (otherwise known as admissions), the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, and the UK International Center.
For example, Tracy said, one change would be to take services offered through the undergraduate education department and merge them into Student Affairs, eliminating bureaucracy and increasing the number of people working directly with students.
Many other details have not yet been finalized, but he wants the units to work together in helping students overcome what officials have identified as their major stumbling blocks:
▪ Academic troubles. Tracy said UK needs to get more students into the right classes, classes where they can succeed and get the credits they need to graduate on time. That means students need more and better academic advising. They also need enrichment activities, such as foreign travel, to augment their education.
▪ Financial problems. Tracy said UK is trying to reach a “delicate balance” between giving aid to students who need it most and rewarding top students with merit aid so they will come to UK. In 2014, a Herald-Leader analysis found that between 2007 and 2014, merit aid at UK rose 149 percent compared to a 46 percent increase for financial aid based solely on need.
▪ Community. Studies show that the more involved students are, the more likely they are to stay in school. “How do we build a community for everyone here?” Tracy asked.
▪ Wellness. Many more students are suffering with mental and emotional problems. Tracy said the reorganization would add eight psychological counselors to the UK Counseling Center, doubling the current number.
Tracy said about 420 people work in the affected units, and while some people may lose their jobs, others may move into different roles and some new jobs may be added. He began holding a series of meetings about the changes Tuesday and hopes to have a new plan in place by August. He said the plan will result in fewer administrators and an increase in front-line student support.
“We will meet with everyone to lay out the ways in which we’re going to create significant changes in our organization ... find ways in which we align ourselves in those four key areas,” Tracy said.
Tracy said he’s been working on the changes since October, so they are not directly related to state budget cuts, possibly in the current year, and definitely in the next biennium.
In an email sent to affected units Tuesday afternoon, Tracy said “today, we have too many islands of effort, where instead we need a seamless and integrated organizational structure among all our units in support of students and their success.”