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OP-ED: The Murray State promise

Murray State President Dr. Bob Jackson

By Dr. Bob Jackson

For nearly 100 years, Murray State University has taken great pride in providing our students a high-quality education and ensuring access and affordability. In fact, our first president, Dr. John W. Carr, stated his assurance that no student would be deprived of an education simply because of one’s financial standing. During the past 15 months, I have regularly stated our responsibility, duty and obligation as a public comprehensive university, to continue this legacy of providing a high-quality education, with world-class professors, caring and dedicated staff and ensuring access and affordability for the students and families of our region, state and beyond.

A few weeks ago, for the 29th straight year, U.S. News and World Report ranked Murray State University as a “top tier” university and one of the highest ranked comprehensive institutions in the South. For the past 12 years, Forbes magazine has considered Murray State to be one of “America’s Best Colleges.” Importantly, Washington Monthly reported a few weeks ago that Murray State is a “Best Bang for the Buck,” as it compares the quality of our academic programs with the cost of attendance.

We take access and affordability for our students and families very seriously as we awarded $44 million in scholarships, grants and waivers last year – awards that do not have to be paid back. The Murray State Promise, newly expanded in 2018, provides need-based scholarships to qualifying first-time freshmen and new transfer students who would pay no tuition. The Murray State University Foundation, Inc., a private, non-profit corporation established in 1946, also authorized over $4 million in scholarships last year from privately gifted endowments from generous Murray State donors and friends. During the past several months, we received a recent record of donations from generous individuals and 50 percent of these funds were dedicated for student scholarships.

In this day of tight budgets at home and reduced state support for our University, I made the decision to forego a Presidential Inauguration and Investiture Ceremony after my selection as president. Instead, we are taking the average cost of past presidential inaugurations and providing those funds directly toward additional need-based scholarships for our students. As a first-generation, middle-class student, I understood then and understand now the challenge of college affordability. Therefore, foregoing an investiture was simply the right thing to do for our current and prospective students and their families. In lieu of a formal investiture, we have announced A Week of Giving, from November 29 through December 6, 2019, in an effort to raise additional funds for need-based scholarships to be awarded in 2020.

As we move forward to serve our region, state and beyond, I am extremely proud of our hardworking and dedicated faculty and staff as they provide a high-quality education, ensure student success and continue our near 100-year legacy of providing access and affordability. In addition, we have an engaged and focused Board of Regents, working hard to ensure that we continue to meet these important obligations. Our institutional commitment, coupled with renewed higher education investment by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, will allow the University to continue our work to prepare the next generation of leaders by providing high-quality academic programs, access and affordability — this is our Murray State Promise.

Dr. Bob Jackson is president of Murray State University