By James El-Mallakh–
On Feb. 7, students representing public colleges from across Kentucky will gather in Frankfort for the Rally for Higher Education. The annual gathering that takes place inside the state capitol is an opportunity for citizens to voice their concerns surrounding higher education. Their highest priorities are usually the affordability and accessibility of college.
“This year, we’re set to have the largest turnout in the history of the rally,” said Max Morley, Student Government Association Senior Advisor. “I think students are really starting to see that, especially when their tuition goes up annually, they’re really starting to see that we need to do something because right now this isn’t a good situation to be in, so we need to, as students, stand up for ourselves.”
This year, during the rally, the University of Louisville SGA will introduce a bill written by Max Morley to the state legislature. Drafted back in the summer, the bill would define the word “affordable” when dealing with matters of higher education, “so any [bill] that is seen as falling outside of that definition will not be advanced at the state level,” said Kurtis Frizzell, SGA Student Body President.
As Morley puts it, “The biggest thing it does is establish that definition of affordable, because right now that word is thrown around so much up in the general assembly that no one really knows what it means.”
The bill will also have measures to keep college tuition low. One way the bill does this is by saying that schools need to keep tuition low enough so that any student should not have to loan a certain amount of money to pay for classes. The creation of the bill was outlined as an objective in SGA’s 2020 plan, which was passed back in the fall of 2009.
The rally will feature several speakers, including Frizzell, as well as other university student body presidents and legislators that support the bill. The state representatives that support the bill are Democratic Rep. Keith Hall, Republican Rep. Ryan Quarles, Democratic Rep. Richard Henderson and Democratic Rep. Kelly Flood.
“I think it’s important for students to make their voices heard,” said Michael Curtin, the Vice President of Finance for the university. “Legislators, they may not listen to a university administrator, probably not. They may not even listen to a university president, but they will listen to their constituents, because that’s the folks that put them in office.”
Kentucky colleges that will have students attending will include University of Louisville, University of Kentucky, Northern Kentucky University, Eastern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University, Morehead State University and Murray State University. (To find out more about the rally, go to uoflsga.org).
In addition to the rally and submission of the bill to congress, U of L will also ask volunteers to participate in the rally without shoes as part of a barefoot campaign.
“This year, the University of Louisville is going with a little more of a proactive stance on it. We’ve started the barefoot campaign,” said Frizzell, “which is basically a sort of a symbol that if our state doesn’t start funding education, like it should be, then we’re going to become our stereotype of being poor and uneducated and what outsiders see Kentucky as.”
The anticipated increase in turnout for the rally is commonly viewed as a response to Governor Beshear’s recent budget proposal, which would include a 6.4 percent cut to higher education in Kentucky in order to help ameliorate the financial pressure on the state.
“I think the big rallying cry is we don’t want to keep balancing the budget on the backs of our students,” said Morley, when referring to the Governor’s proposal to budget cuts in higher education. “What we’re saying is tuition needs to be protected; enough is enough.”
Photo courtesy Louisville.edu