As University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto watches state and federal dollars dip, a new source of funding has emerged: research grants from abroad.
“We live in a new normal,” he told members of the Frankfort Rotary Club Thursday at the 15th annual International Dinner at the Capital Plaza Hotel.
“The expectation of the traditional sources of funding – state and federal support – are going to be flat, and we’re realizing in Kentucky this year, they may even decline for the next several years.”
Gov. Steve Beshear’s budget calls for a reduction of 6.4 percent in state funding for postsecondary education, which is less than the proposed cuts of 8.5 percent for most state agencies.
UK officials are bracing for a $20 million cut in state funding next year, said Capilouto, who was named UK’s 12th president July 1. That would bring the total to $50 million in reductions since the budget peaked in 2008.
But by expanding research partnerships abroad and looking for opportunities to collaborate with foreign countries, Capilouto said UK can weather the economic storm.
“We see opportunities abroad,” he said, standing behind a row of colorful foreign flags brought out for the occasion.
The Center for Applied Energy Research has already established some funding from agencies around the world.
“China, as you know, is one of the largest consumers of coal in the world, and they have great interest in our energy and environmental research,” he said.
“We see this as a wonderful opportunity for collaboration, so we can bring our students and the interests of other countries together, and possibly open up new revenue pipelines to fund our research.”
Beyond revenue, Capilouto said international partnerships are crucial to preparing students for the workplace.
The university is expanding its study abroad opportunities and bringing more undergraduate foreign exchange students to Lexington – a record 412 arrived on campus in the fall.
“We’ve always had a strong presence at our graduate level, but we’re starting to emphasize recruiting students at the undergraduate level,” Capilouto said.
There’s also an effort to bring more cultural events to UK, so students “can first see the world on campus.” Most graduates will work in jobs with a global connection or impact, he said.
“We have an obligation to provide a global education for this next generation of leaders – people who must follow in your footsteps,” he said.
Frankfort’s Rotary Club is one of 33,000 worldwide.
Volunteer members work to improve their own communities and initiate humanitarian projects like providing health care and medical supplies, clean water, food, job training, youth development, and education to millions of people in need.
In the last year, Frankfort Rotarians visited the United Nations, worked to provide safe drinking water to people in the Dominican Republic and Honduras, sent packages to troops overseas, and collected money, dental supplies, toys, gloves and coats for Afghan children.