The cost of higher education in Kentucky is outrageous. Students are being charged more and more while receiving less and less in financial aid. As a college education becomes more useful than ever in the modern economy, state funding per student has decreased in Kentucky. And now, faced with the task of setting Kentucky’s fiscal house in order, Gov. Matt Bevin has decided that students should pay the tab for a pension crisis the state government created and could easily solve with other measures.
I fully support making college more affordable, which is why I authored legislation in SGA last week to oppose the tuition freeze proposed in the Kentucky Senate recently. While that may seem counterintuitive – a tuition freeze sounds great, right? – these policies have actually been shown to spike tuition rates dramatically as soon as they expire. They can also lead to substantial cuts in academic programming and termination of faculty and staff positions, ultimately leading to an overall decline in academic quality. Students cannot afford to pay even more for less. SGA expressed its voice in unanimous opposition, and on Thursday, the tuition freeze bill failed in Frankfort.
Today, I am leading a delegation to the Kentucky Capitol to send a clear message to our lawmakers: our universities are not ATMs. Our universities are centers of intellectual development and engines of economic growth. Can we do more to make university expenses more efficient? You bet. I firmly believe that administrative pay and construction costs are two areas where we can tighten our belts. But reducing the need for high tuition requires work on both ends and our state government needs to step up to the plate.
No matter what comes out of our trip, I will keep placing college affordability at the top of my agenda as president because every Kentuckian should be able to seek a quality education and better their own future. I hope you will stand with me. Come to our SGA meetings on Tuesdays at 5 PM on the second floor of the Downing Student Union or stop by my office to share with me your ideas and experiences. Making progress on behalf of WKU students is not always easy, but I look forward to working on it every day.
-Jay Todd Richey, Student Government Association President