State of the University Address: Murray State’s future of funding and student success

President Bob Davies counts the three stars on the seal of his school: hope, achievement and endeavor. With these in mind, he acknowledges 93 years of progress and looks to the future of Murray State.

In his inaugural State of the University Address, Davies began by highlighting the school’s many accomplishments of the past year. He asked the audience to give a round of applause to honor its national educational rankings, recent reaccreditation recommendations and, of course, the Racer soccer team’s OVC Championship.

President Bob Davies gives his first State of the University address in Wrather Auditorium.
President Bob Davies gives his first State of the University Address in Wrather Auditorium.

Hoping to continue these trends of success, Davies also discussed less positive trends in the world of higher education: decreases in funding and increases in tuition rates.

“As I look to the future, I believe that we are at a confluence of dynamic changes of higher education that are driven by three macro-forces, which are shaping a shift in our thoughts,” he said. “These include, first, the continual decline of state resources; second, the continual increase of accountability measures, including [performance funding]; and third, the shifting in relationship in the meaning and purpose and value of higher education.”

Those changes have resulted in the following ways:

  • Tuition rate increase of 2.9 percent
  • Current tuition cap of 12 hours
  • Increase in performance-based scholarships

“As a public university, we are committed to remain as affordable as possible,” Davies said.

Davies acknowledged the relationship between the 12-hour tuition cap and Murray State’s “15 to Finish” initiative, which encourages students to take at least 15 credit hours each semester to graduate in four years. Following his speech, the entire university community received email notification proposing a tuition cap at 12-15 hours. According to the email, this change will ensure students maintain full-time status and supports “15 to Finish.”

Davies spoke to the importance of performance-based funding across the realms of higher education. This means that state funding is subject to the productivity of each university, providing the best for the best schools.

Interim Provost Tim Todd agrees that the most pressing matter at Murray State is funding and figuring out where those funds are coming from.

“The [Council on Postsecondary Education] has a focus on performance-based funding,” Todd said. “There are some that would like to see all state appropriation be performance-based, but there are others that would rather see new monies be the ones that are appropriated via performance.”

Davies encourages that the university must invest in itself.

“We can continue to rely on state funds that will be slow and short in coming, or we can start now and make changes in other practices while preserving affordability,” he said.

This has led to a new Student Success initiative focused on practical learning across all colleges and departments. Davies said the implementation of this requirement may include study abroad, internships, service learning, clinical experience or practicum.

He said the goal of a Murray State graduate should not be to simply find a job, but to be able to create a career with the values and skills they learned here.

“This very element – by stating that every undergraduate will complete one of these opportunities – creates a significant and important distinction between a Murray State degree and a degree from other universities,” Davies said. “It will combine our emphasis on rigor, our strength of relevance and our ardent passion in the pursuit of excellence.”

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