University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd praised faculty, staff and students for forging on to become a top university in the face of devastating budgetary realities.
"We take direct aim at Top 20 status because it is a noble and ambitious cause, and because the state really needs us to do so," Todd said in his third State of the University address. "With the future of the children and grandchildren of our Commonwealth as our motivation, we move forward with renewed vigor and unwavering commitment to building a Kentucky that this state deserves."
In front of a noontime crowd lured to Patterson Plaza with free hot dogs, Todd cited UK's progress despite a "perfect storm" of budget cuts and an ailing endowment created by the global economic crisis. His examples included:
■ 12,000 applications for the freshman class, a UK record.
■ Out of those accepted, UK enrolled a record 404 black freshman and 404 students from the Governor's Scholars and Governor's School for the Arts program.
■ Research expenditures are at a record $337 million.
Todd also recognized several outstanding students and professors, including Jenna Brashear, a Gaines Scholar whose class project for a new performing arts venue in her native Muhlenberg County is now being built.
He also pointed out that, with careful fiscal stewardship, UK has been able to hire five new deans this year.
Todd thanked Gov. Steve Beshear for sparing higher education from the last two rounds of budget cuts, but he noted that some of the holes were filled with federal stimulus dollars, which will end in 2011. After the speech, he said that UK will depend increasingly on state dollars.
"The state will have to help us with the general fund in some way," he said. "The state desperately needs new revenue measures."
Todd said that in the next few weeks, UK will announce a new scholarship initiative. As tuition has gone up, need-based scholarship funding has had to climb as well.