BRANDSTETTER: Higher education shows commitment to power through pandemic

Published 10:31 am Tuesday, July 28, 2020

It would be an understatement to say that the last few months have been difficult.

For me personally, it has been mentally exhausting to keep spirits up for my family and employees at our firm.

However, these efforts have strengthened many of my personal relationships while also showing our company new ways that we can continue to serve our clients. 

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Since becoming chair of the Council on Postsecondary Education in January, Vice-Chair Kim Halbauer and I have held a weekly conference call with President Aaron Thompson.

This call gives us an opportunity to check-in on current issues and gauge the pulse of the higher education community.

I look forward to these calls for a number of reasons, but primarily because we always hear an update on an innovative development either at a campus or within the Council itself. 

I commend the Council and our campuses for working together in this time of crisis.

They have found ways to keep our students safe and have responded to the pandemic with compassion and innovation, all while keeping the increase in tuition this year to its lowest in more than 20 years. 

The statistics and data in the near term point to a bearish outlook for higher education as a whole. However, I feel as though the data fails to capture the power of human ingenuity and the American spirit of optimism that will eventually prevail — because that is what we do.

The U.S. is uniquely positioned in the world. We have self-sustaining energy supplies, the ability to produce more food than any other country and we have the world’s leading system of higher education. 

All of this gives me the confidence to know that our future is still bright.

It doesn’t mean it will be free of challenges; those will always exist. But it does mean that the long-term goals of providing for an educated workforce will continue to be the beacon that we will all work toward.

In my mind, this time makes our strategic agenda even more relevant, and I have made a personal commitment to refocus my thoughts and actions on how we will achieve our goal of having 60 percent of Kentuckians with a degree or certificate by 2030. 

I’m far from the only one.

Our state, students, faculty, staff and administrators deserve a tremendous thanks for their hard work over the last few months. Their dedication is paving the way for everyone to fulfill their utmost potential, and we all owe them a debt of gratitude as we head into the new academic year.

Ben Brandstetter is chairman of Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education and president of Brandstetter Carroll Inc.