Story by Ashley Traylor, Staff writer
Student body presidents from Kentucky’s public universities planned a rally for higher education to take place Feb. 13 in Frankfort at the capitol rotunda.
Clint Combs, Murray State’s Student Government Association (SGA) president, said the purpose of the rally is to prioritize education by advocating to stop future cuts to higher education and fulfilling the powerball promise – need-based financial aid that funds grants like the College Access Program (CAP) Grant and the Kentucky Tuition Grant (KTG).
He said $30 million was diverted from need-based funds to Kentucky’s general fund.
The Board of Student Body Presidents, which comprises Student Government presidents across Kentucky, are taking a two-prong approach: a rally and a petition.
“We feel it is important we clear that up and make sure all that money goes toward those need-based grants and those students who need it,” he said.
More importantly, Combs said, their goal is to stop budget cuts to higher education, regardless of it not being a budget year.
“It is never too early to start advocating for the next budget cycle and beginning to plant that seed of the importance of higher education in Kentucky,” Combs said.
He said he thinks legislators believe in higher education, but higher education takes a while to see return benefits.
Combs said when people have some form of education, they are more likely to be employed, paying taxes and bringing in revenue for the state.
“A lot of the things you see as big spenders right now, as you have a more educated electorate, will become smaller and smaller,” Combs said. “However, that takes a while.”
According to a study by USA Today’s Courier Journal, Kentucky is ranked No. 46 in education and has the lowest percentage of associate’s and bachelor’s degree holders.
Karen L. Dearing, resident of Murray, said she grew up with parents who taught in higher education. Her parents reached out to the lower economic stratospheres where she observed the disadvantage of lack of education.
“There are very smart people out there who have made do with extremely little because they never had the opportunity for a proper education, let alone higher education,” Dearing said. “There is a lot of potential that is wasted because of poverty that prevents obtaining that education.”
Lottery funds that fund financial aid for students are being diverted away from higher education, and Dearing said, this makes her angry.
“To now find out that those funds are being diverted and not used, as promised, to provide higher education for those poor and vulnerable, who desperately need education to better their lives, and further, that they are the ones most likely paying for whatever those funds are being diverted to, lends weight to my perceived corruptive influence of a lottery,” she said.
Dearing said legislators need to know citizens are dismayed by their actions and they should realize well-educated people typically are not in prison and well-educated citizens provide higher income for taxing them.
Many students from Louisville, Murray and Bowling Green, Kentucky, signed the petition and expressed their thoughts about higher education.
Kristina Arnold, resident of Bowling Green, Kentucky, commented on the petition that she works with students in higher education and sees they want to attain a better a life through earning a degree.
“Every year, higher education in Kentucky gets more and more expensive for students, and because of strained finances, they become less and less able to achieve their dreams,” Arnold wrote. “Access to public higher education should be a right in Kentucky, not limited to those, who by luck of birth, have families that can afford to send their children to college.”
Murray State student, Gabrielle Tinebra, commented on the petition stating that budget cuts and tuition increases are affecting enrollment and retention at Murray State and how there is a decline in interest of programs because of the rising expenses.
“I’m signing this petition to protect our rights to higher education and show support for the university that I love,” Tinebra wrote.
The petition currently has nearly 800 signatures.
Guest speakers for the rally will include Kentucky Attorney General, Andy Beshear, Secretary of State, Alison Grimes, Agriculture Commissioner, Ryan Quarles and students from the universities will have an opportunity to speak.
The rally will take place Feb. 13, at the State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST.
Click here to visit the Facebook event, petition and interest forms for a ride to Frankfort with SGA.