Story by Ashley Traylor, News Editor
College students from around Kentucky, including Murray State, took to the steps of the capitol on Feb. 6 to stress the importance of higher education funding.
The Rally for Higher Education is hosted by the Kentucky Board of Student Body Presidents and held annually in Frankfort, Kentucky.
Student Government Association President Tori Wood represented Murray State, along with about 10 students.
The rally is a time for state universities to unite on the steps of the capitol to voice their opinions as well as spend time one-on-one with their local legislators.
The students opened the day with speeches from four of their peers, sharing stories of why higher education is important to them. Murray State student and president of the College of Republicans, J.T. Payne, was one of the students who shared his testimony of higher education.
Payne told his fellow students he knew early on in life that his parents would not be able to afford college. Because of that, he joined many clubs and organizations and held as many leadership roles as possible in addition to working part time and achieving high academic success.
“I did these things because I wanted to be the first person in my family to attend a 4-year university,” Payne said.
Payne was rewarded for his hard work with a scholarship to Murray State where he has been able to continue his involvement.
He posed a question to the students in attendance and the legislators they would later meet with.
“How do we, as a Commonwealth, sustain a stimulated economy when the system that produces and trains our workforce is dismantled piece by piece and dollar by dollar,” Payne said. “Why is the foundation of our society, education, always the first to absorb budget cuts? The so called ‘fat’ that you are cutting simply leads to higher tuition and decreased opportunity.”
Another student speaker, Hailee Waltz from Northern Kentucky University, said she lived most of her life in poverty. The first-generation college student said what kept her going through the difficult times was hope for a better future.
“Without priority for higher education in our legislature, young people who grew up like I did may never see their dreams come true,” Waltz said.
Following speeches on the steps of the capitol, students made their way inside to meet with legislators from their respective districts and counties to further discuss the issues facing higher education in the Commonwealth.
Gov. Matt Bevin announced last month higher education will face yet another cut of about 6 percent.