A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Josh Blair: Northern Kentucky University has had a most historic year — and there’s more to come

It’s an ill-kept secret that teachers anticipate the end of the school year just as much as students. Maybe even more so. But right now, there’s more to be excited about at Northern Kentucky University than summer break. This year has been one of the most historic in school history, and it’s only May.

By far the biggest story of the year was NKU’s trip to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament during its first year of eligibility, after a Horizon League Tournament Championship. Not to mention Coach John Brannen’s Horizon League Coach of the Year Award, earned in large part from a 24-11 season, a vast improvement over last year’s 9-21 record.

Although the Norse didn’t advance in the tournament, they did have a strong showing against perennial powerhouse Kentucky and received free exposure on national media outlets including ESPN, Sports Illustrated and CBS. The Norse were also ranked the NCAA Tournament school with the best value.

While basketball grabbed the most headlines this year, NKU also had numerous academic accomplishments. First is the announcement of a partnership with UK and St. Elizabeth to bring a regional medical school to NKU. Then there is the construction of the Health Innovation Center, set to be complete next year. These two projects leverage NKU to make our region and state a healthier place.

Josh Blair

In addition, there’s the designation of Military Friendly School for the seventh year in a row and, forgive me for mentioning basketball again, the University of Cincinnati Men’s team choosing to play their home games at BB&T Arena while their arena is renovated. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get some transfers after they see how nice our campus is. I highly recommend the 11-foot climbing wall in the pool of the newly renovated Campus Rec Center.

Most importantly, after decades of work by current and former NKU leaders and community members, our university will finally see a more fair funding model based upon student outcomes.This will fix the funding disparity which has left NKU greatly underfunded for many years.

I urge lawmakers in Frankfort keep this momentum going. State funding to Kentucky universities has dropped 32 percent since 2008, almost double the national average. In 2002, the end of my freshman year at NKU, the state covered 71 percent of funding and tuition covered 29 percent. At the end of last school year, the state covered 44 percent and tuition covered 56 percent. Tuition has increased more than 33 percent since 2008.

Can you imagine if the price of gas, milk, or homes went up 33 percent in 8 years? People would lose their minds. (For the record, the price of those three have gone down or remained about the same since 2008).

Unfortunately it seems the only ones outraged at the steep rise in tuition costs are students and their parents who work hard to afford financing an education. I see this every day in my classroom: students working full-time, working two jobs or, in some unfortunate cases, dropping out because they can’t afford tuition.

This doesn’t just hurt students, it hurts our state and our communities. When college becomes unaffordable for many, enrollment goes down. This is a double-edged sword; lower enrollment leads to further lost revenue. We need quality, affordable higher education to develop talented, skilled, educated graduates who can enter the workforce, further bolstering our state and local economies.

So far, 2017 has been the year of NKU. I hope the remainder of the year continues to see this regional asset on the rise.

Josh Blair is an adjunct professor in the Department of Communication at Northern Kentucky University and a 2005 graduate.

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One Comment

  1. keith lee says:

    outstanding column : nice sentiment about how the basketball success has gained overdue respect but facts about medical partnership and tuition burden made it so much better than the average letter to the editor. Not to say even the poorly written don’t deserve attention as long as we have the priviledge of “picking up the paper” each morning.

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