By Jay Blanton, Amy Jones-Timoney, and Brad Nally
The numbers depicting the University of Kentucky’s transformation over the last decade are eye-popping. Consider just two:
- In the past seven years alone, nearly $2.3 billion has been spent or authorized to transform the UK campus in the form of new classrooms, residence halls, dining spaces, research laboratories and athletics facilities.
- Over the next five years, UK hopes to spend another $500 million — fueled primarily by philanthropy and enrollment growth — largely focused on renovating, upgrading and expanding its campus: the places and spaces where instruction and learning happen.
But bigger than the numbers are the ambitions for UK and the Commonwealth that they represent, university officials said Tuesday in discussing campus transformation with the Board of Trustees.
“I see the University of Kentucky playing its role in leading Kentucky in a rapidly changing 21st century,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “We have big dreams at the University of Kentucky. That’s our responsibility.”
A few examples of how campus transformation will impact Kentucky:
An additional 150,000 to 250,000 square feet of space will accommodate up to 3,500 more students over the next five years, accelerating UK’s plans to increase graduation numbers that will expand the state’s workforce.
The expansion of the College of Engineering will allow the college additional space as it continues its growth from 3,900 to nearly 6,000 students by 2025, creating thousands more engineers for the state’s workforce.
Reimagining and recapturing the Reynolds Building complex — on the edge of the campus near a key transportation corridor into Lexington — would house the College of Design, which is expanding and contemplating new majors to meet workforce needs in the state.
Completing Phase 2 of the Research Building 2 — a facility near the College of Pharmacy and Research Building 1 — will help UK in its goals to cut cancer incidence rates in half and attack the opioid drug epidemic ravaging too many communities across Kentucky. The Research Building 2 is focused specifically on the state’s most significant health issues. UK Research efforts have a more than $580 million annual economic impact on the state.
Renovation efforts at UK’s Scovell Hall would make a reality of long-established plans to house the College of Public Health, one of the fastest-growing colleges on campus.
A new College of Communication and Information building would anchor a digital village near the Hardymon and Marksbury buildings, supporting more communications and technology leaders across a rapidly changing technological landscape.
Today, a number of colleges — including Design and Communication and Information — are spread across several buildings on campus. Renovation and modernization efforts would consolidate space for those colleges, making instruction and faculty collaboration easier.
Continue renovation projects at the Chemistry-Physics building — and starting them at White Hall Classroom Building — will enable research efforts to continue and extend the useful life for two of the most highly used classroom spaces on campus. There is growing interest in — and need for — space to accommodate growth in STEM+H majors (science, technology, engineering, math and health).
How is modernization being funded?
In 2016, UK received authorization from the General Assembly to spend $60 million on campus modernization efforts; the university received another $125 million in authorization last year.
Going forward, UK is anticipating that colleges will raise through philanthropy about 30 percent of the roughly $500 million necessary for this next phase of modernization efforts. Additional resources will come from enrollment growth and existing revenue sources, UK officials said.
“A lot of people say our dreams are bigger than our resources. We have a chance through this campaign of matching our dreams with the requisite resources, and that’s our responsibility to ask people to invest in Kentucky, to invest in our future so that tomorrow is as bright as it has been for many of us,” Capilouto said. “That’s our responsibility.”