SGA attends annual rally for higher education in Frankfort

WKU student body president Andi Dahmer (left), Kentucky State University student body president Onaje Cunningham (center) and Eastern Kentucky University student body president Laura Jackson (right) speak in front of the capital building in Frankfort Feb. 6. Eight Kentucky universities were represented at the rally to talk to representatives about their plans for the higher education tax reform.

Nicole Ziege

The Kentucky Board of Student Body Presidents hosted its annual Rally for Higher Education at the state capitol in Frankfort on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

“The work you guys are doing today is going to be very important not only for the Commonwealth today but is going to be very important for the future,” Northern Kentucky University student body president Sami Dada said at the start of the rally. “The work that you’re doing today will be remembered for futures to come.”

The rally began at 10:30 a.m. on the North Steps of the Capitol. About 20 members of the Student Government Association from WKU attended the rally, and about 100 students attended overall.

Other students who attended came from NKU, Murray State University, Kentucky State University, Morehead State University, Eastern Kentucky University, University of Kentucky and University of Louisville.

Four student speakers gave speeches during the rally, representing EKU, NKU, Murray and UK.

The first speaker, EKU student Brianna Palmer, said students “pursue” higher education for “a million different reasons.”

“For me, higher education means the opportunity to grow in my knowledge and my wisdom but, most importantly, to find a sense of self,” Palmer said during her speech.

Palmer said when she was a junior in high school, she realized she would need scholarships to pay for college.

“In hope that my hard work and involvement would get me those, I earned the grades and the test scores, but somehow I still felt short of what I needed to pay for college,” Palmer said. “There are so many students just like me, and I stand for all of those students.”

The second speaker, NKU student Hailee Waltz, said she is a first-generation college student, and she said she spent most of her life in “absolute poverty.”

“Throughout my life, the only thing that kept me going is my hope for the future,” Waltz said during her speech. “Without priority for higher education in our legislature, young people who grew up like I did may never see their dreams come true.”

WKU SGA President Andi Dahmer said the Kentucky Board of Student Body Presidents “has been working consistently” since August to plan the rally.

“We’re just advocating for higher education funding to make sure that we can get as much money as we can and we’re cut as little as possible so that we maintain our current tuition and try to raise tuition as little as possible overall,” Dahmer said.

Dahmer said the rally was “pivotal at this moment” because of WKU’s established deficit.

Dahmer said such a deficit will make it “extremely difficult to sustain tuition to the current price which students pay.”

“Everyone knows that when tuition rises, it’s an increased burden on students, and it can even facilitate an increased dropout rate or for students to take semesters off in order to pay that increased tuition,” Dahmer said. “We are the future of the Commonwealth, and if we can’t attend higher education due to tuition costs rising, then it’ll be a worse future for Kentucky.”

Following the rally, the students were scheduled to meet with individual legislators. The personal counties of the students and the counties where the students’ schools were located determined which legislators students met, Dahmer said.

After the meetings with the legislators, Dahmer said she was “proud of how today has gone.”

“I really think that it’s shown that we as senators can come together for a higher cause, and that cause is definitely college affordability and higher education for all students,” Dahmer said.

News reporter Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @NicoleZiege.