It used to be when the University of Kentucky needed money for undergraduate education it went to Frankfort and when it needed money for research it went to Washington.
Now it goes to . . . China?
President Eli Capilouto is leading a UK delegation that's in the People's Republic seeking both students, who would pay the higher out-of-state tuition rates, and contracts for UK researchers.
Forging partnerships with China makes sense, not just in pursuit of profits, but also because Kentucky's educational flagship should be a player in the global intellectual market. And China will be a huge force in the world in which UK graduates will live and work.
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Returning to more familiar turf, UK also is looking once again to Kentucky families for more revenue. Trustees last week approved a 6 percent tuition increase for undergraduates bringing the total cost of tuition, fees and housing for in-state undergraduates to $16,518.
Only 9 percent of UK undergrads pay full sticker price, according to the university. The other 91 percent receive some financial aid, ranging from a small percent of the cost to full rides for the most academically accomplished.
The trustees who voiced concerns about the rise in tuition — 147 percent in 10 years — are right to be concerned.
According to a recent study by the University of Virginia, UK's in-state tuition now exceeds in-state tuition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Texas at Austin.
As state support for higher education has stagnated or declined, more of the costs have been shifted onto students, which helps explain why debt on student loans is greater than credit-card debt.
Capilouto, who will present his first UK budget next month, says affordability should be a top priority and has pledged to hold next year's tuition increase to 3 percent, if state funding is not cut (a big if).
As it stands now, UK must absorb $20 million in state cuts and $23 million in fixed costs increases.
Faculty and staff won't get raises in 2012-13 but Capilouto wants to budget a 5-percent merit raise pool for the next year.
His priorities also include efficiency to save money, entrepreneurship to generate it and salting away a few million dollars for construction debt service to show the legislature UK can be trusted with its own money.
Capilouto is a realist. He's looking for ways to move UK forward despite dwindling state support and cutbacks in federal research funding.
As a state and nation, though, we should think hard about the long-term risks of more erosion in public support for education.
Also, what will be lost when educators are valued more for entrepreneurship than teaching, science and public service?