Morehead State University hosted Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) President Dr. Aaron Thompson Sept. 26 and 27 to meet with University leadership, faculty, staff, students and the community.
Thompson’s first stop in Morehead was a meet and greet with MSU campus leadership and listening session at 1 p.m., Sept. 26 at the Space Science Center.
At 2:30 p.m., President Thompson met with student leaders in Room 329 of the Adron Doran University Center, and later at 5 p.m. held a Q&A forum with the community. Key topics discussed included pathways for students and adults to pursue and receive a college degree or credential, job placement opportunities and collaborative partnerships between universities, CPE and communities.
Thompson’s visit to MSU is part of a listening tour where he visits various higher education institutions in the state. The face-to-face conversations help CPE to review the Commonwealth’s higher education system and engage more degree-seeking students.
Thompson said that he has been pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest his listening tour has garnered from students. He was also surprised to hear about some of the feedback from students at MSU and elsewhere about how they lacked preparation for college, saying they would have benefited from more life-skills courses in high school centered around financial literacy, study skills and time management. Thompson also said that affordability and paying for higher education is a frequent issue of both confusion and concern from students.
“From our standpoint of understanding, they just didn’t have all the information. They didn’t know how to pay for college. They didn’t understand that there was a sticker price and net price,” he said. “It tells us we need to be more cognizant of how to be transparent.”
Thompson praised MSU for both its increased retention rates for minority students and for the number of low-income students it serves while challenging the University and other Kentucky public higher education institutions to increase enrollment of out-of-state students. He said as a whole, the education and opportunities MSU provides its service region is invaluable to the overall mission of advancing a prosperous Eastern Kentucky economy.
“I’m an Eastern Kentuckian. I’m a Southeastern Kentuckian. I know the value of higher education. But so many people in Eastern and Southeastern Kentucky aren’t seeing the economic value,” he said. “You can’t get good jobs in Eastern Kentucky unless you have an educated workforce. You’re not going to grow an economic base unless you have an economic development system that prospers, and you can’t make one prosper unless you have an educated group. Morehead State serves this population tremendously.”
On Sept. 27, Thompson was also a featured speaker at the Sixth Annual Tri-State Conference on Diversity & Inclusion being held at MSU and met with student leaders at Rowan County Senior High School.
Thompson is a nationally recognized leader in higher education with a focus on policy, student success, and organizational leadership and design. He was named president of the council on October 2018. He came to the CPE in 2009 from Eastern Kentucky University, where he held a variety of leadership positions, including associate vice president for Academic Affairs, University Programs. In May 2016, he left the council to serve as interim president for Kentucky State University and returned to the CPE in summer 2017.
For more information on his tour, visit http://cpe.ky.gov/listeningtour