Four year university to be built in Somerset, mayor hopes it will transform the region

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Published: Oct. 27, 2020 at 5:46 PM EDT
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SOMERSET, Ky. (WYMT) - A new university is coming to downtown Somerset. Mayor Alan Keck made the announcement Friday.

“It’s a big dream and as I’ve said everything is impossible until somebody does it and we want to get this done right here in home," said Keck.

For more than 30 years, officials in Somerset have discussed the need for a four year university.

“You know, higher ed has taken several turns over the years and we wanted to do something different. Launch a traditional university rooted as I’ve said in the founding principles of our country and I mean liberty and open exchange of ideas and dreaming big and the things that made America, America," Keck said.

With the university, the city hopes to address a challenge the community has faced for decades, a brain drain of the region as many students leave for educational opportunities.

“We didn’t just want to launch a college, we wanted to launch a university where you can stay here for four years or if you’re from here and you go away for college you can come back and get your masters and some day even your doctorate," said Keck.

The proposed location for the private non profit research University of Somerset is Cundiff Square, right in the heart of the city.

“I think that downtowns are heartbeats of communities, especially rural America, and here in Kentucky you know downtown Somerset is community and we thought that adding a university right in the heart of downtown would just be special for growth special for the student and it will also help our downtown businesses," said Keck.

The university will offer a full spectrum of undergraduate degrees in arts and science as well as specialized programs such as artificial intelligence and nanotechnology.

“Anything where technology is key we want to be at the cutting edge of it," said Keck.

Education will not stop at undergraduate degrees, it will also provide students with options for master’s degrees and doctoral programs.

“I want Kentuckians to be able to come back here or stay here to live and work," said Keck.

Keck says he wants to put a focus on bringing new companies into the region to help develop the local economy.

“We want to insure that the programs we’re teaching we’re also simultaneously recruiting companies that will hire those kids," he said.

In a study by Bluegrass Research Alliance in 2018, it showed the university could make a $128 million annual economic impact and bring more than 1,000 jobs to the city.

“The indirect impact is also going to be tremendous. Our restaurants will thrive in unique ways and again our tourism destinations will have even more work force," said Keck.

Keck says one of his main goals for the university is bring a balance in diversity.

“We want to bring balance back where everybody feels welcome, so that has presented itself with some challenges, but we’re not going to apologize for that. I think the more complex thought we can have, the more healthy respectful debate we can have, the better education our students are going to get.”

Keck says the the late Dr. Michael Hail was instrumental in starting the university and had the vision of what it should be.

He hopes the university will be open within three to five years.

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