200 attend higher education rally

Hollan Holm

A crowd of 200 students sent out a distress beacon to state legislators last Thursday, said Student Government Association President Jamie Sears.

The students’ SOS message of “Save Our Schools” reverberated in the halls of the Capitol in chants voiced by the crowd and slogans written on poster boards.

The rally, organized by the board of Kentucky’s student body presidents, had participants from six public universities. Western’s approximately 20-person delegation included SGA members, non-member students and faculty.

“Seventeen people took the initiative to get on the bus,” Sears said. “I’m glad for that.”

Gretchen Light, a freshman from Newburgh, Ind., was one of the 20O wearing gray T-shirts with lime green logos that read: “Invest in Higher Education.”

The vote in Frankfort on the future of higher education will affect her directly, she said.

“I still have at least three more years at Western,” Light said. “Whether or not our funding is cut affects whether or not I have to pay more for tuition.”

Abby Lovan a sophomore from Jeffersonville, Ind., thought the rally was worth SGA’s time.

“I think if it’s for a good cause then we need to head down there and do what we’re going to do for our school,” Lovan said.

Bryan Carson, assistant professor and coordinator of reference materials for the Helm library, said that cuts to higher education go beyond the university classrooms.

“It’s very important that the state invest properly in higher education,” he said. “It’s an investment in the economic future. Cuts to higher education affect people’s lives.”

For the library, Carson said, cuts to higher education could mean a reduction in the number of reference materials available for students.

Budget cuts to the state-funded universities prompted the rally.

Last week, the Kentucky House of Representatives passed a budget bill that cut funding at Western by more than $1 million. It also denied Western $4 million in reward money for increasing its enrollment.

A Senate version of the budget could give Western administrators a glimpse of hope. If the Senate’s version is approved, Western will end up $3 million ahead of what the House budget allots.

“We’re grateful for the Senate budget to restore a large portion of our funding,” President Gary Ransdell said.

Representative Jon Draud of Kenton County said in a speech at the rally that Kentucky has a century-long tradition of neglecting higher education.

“When we don’t move forward,” Draud said, “we hurt education. Staying the same is not a good thing. We need additional revenue to move forward in education.”

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