Students of all public and private technical colleges and universities across Kentucky will gather in Frankfort for the Rally for Higher Education on March 3. At 10 a.m., about 400 students will fill the Capitol rotunda to open a conversation with the commonwealth’s legislators.
“With the addition of private and technical institutions, the rally should have around 400 students in attendance,” Student Government Association President Will Harris said. “They have reserved the rotunda in the capitol building from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST.”
Organized by the University of Louisville’s SGA, the rally has brought the Board of Student Body Presidents (BSBP) together to give Kentucky’s post-secondary education students a space to voice their concerns.
“The BSBP has been working on this since last May,” Harris said. “The rally is a re-occuring event every year.”
The Rally for Higher Education seeks to persuade and educate both students and legislators about the current state of Kentucky’s higher education institutions. This year, items on the students’ agenda include pension reform, budget and funding.
“We want to rally on a united front,” Harris said. “We will be rallying for pension reform, performance-based budget model increases and asset preservation funding.”
Beyond rallying for these agenda items, the event will also provide an outlet for students to participate in their community and contribute to the well-being of their education.
“Although we will be rallying for special cific agenda items, it is also a great opportunity for individuals to learn many tangible skills such as public speaking, lobbying and networking, while also learning about the government system in Kentucky,” Harris said.
The BSBP has reached out to the SGAs of colleges and universities across Kentucky to encourage students to get involved. WKU’s SGA is taking measures to do just that.
Students that plan to attend the rally will have an option to sign up for free transportation with SGA to and from the Capitol. At 6 a.m., WKU attendees will depart from Diddle Arena to attend the rally in Frankfort.
“Students who are interested in attending the rally will be provided with transportation to and from Frankfort,” Harris said. “They will also be provided with a university excused absence.”
For senior communication studies and psychology major Daysha Chase, the incentive to attend was far beyond free transportation, an excused absence and the extra credit offered by her professor.
“I’ll be working in higher education after I graduate in May,” Chase said. “This is also an opportunity to network and get to know people both in the field of communications and Kentucky legislation.”
Being a Memphis, Tennessee, native, Chase also took interest in participating in Kentucky legislation as a way to see how systems differ between states.
“Although I know this will be a fairly large event, I hope to be able to meet and greet with the people that make universities like WKU function,” Chase said.
SGA Senator-at-Large Brigid Stakelum also plans to attend the rally to advocate against cuts to higher education funding on behalf of WKU students who have seen their tuition raise.
“In order to minimize the damage done by budget cuts, universities often prioritize need-based aid,” Stakelum said. “Thus, they are decreasing merit-based aid or making the merit-based aid so difficult to attain that students who meet those requirements are looking elsewhere at more prestigious universities.”
Stakelum, a senior international affairs and French major from Louisville, has experienced this firsthand, as her brother is attending post-secondary education out of state because his major was too expensive in Kentucky’s higher education. Stakelum hopes to reduce what she calls “brain drain” in Kentucky.
If all goes as planned, students in attendance will be able to privately converse with state legislators after hearing a few keynote speakers.
“This will be a great opportunity for students interested in higher education and public policy to apply what they are learning inside of the classroom to an audience,” Harris said.
While the rally will serve as an outlet for Kentucky’s higher education students, it will also bring opportunities for experience, networking and fun to those students like SGA senators who are passionate about the conditions of their education.
“I’m looking forward to a day filled with advocating for WKU in Frankfort and rallying on a united front alongside other students from across the commonwealth,” Harris said.
Features reporter Julianna Lowe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Julianna on social media at @ juliannalowe.