College students from all corners of Kentucky gathered on Monday, Feb. 13 in the rotunda of Kentucky’s capitol building to rally alongside the statue of Abraham Lincoln against government cuts to the Kentucky higher education budget.
Over the last two years, Kentucky is one of three states to continue defunding higher education.
Since 2008, Kentucky college students have seen a decrease of 32% in state funding for higher education, the sixth worst decrease in the country. As Governor Matt Bevin continued to cut higher education funding in what he said would save Kentucky’s pension plan, Attorney General Andy Beshear called Bevin’s cuts illegal, and filed suit.
In 2016, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled against Bevin’s decision that continued budget cuts to higher education and concluded that Bevin exceeded his authority.
“We should never play chicken or Russian roulette with your education,” Beshear said at the rally.
Beshear was only one of the many speakers at the rally Monday, with student speakers from Eastern Kentucky University, University of Louisville, Western Kentucky University, Morehead State University and Northern Kentucky University taking the stage as well.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan-Grimes, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, Senators Max Wise and David Givens, and State Representative James Kay also spoke during the event.
One theme resonated throughout the capitol’s rotunda: “Stand up and demand Frankfort be accountable,” Rep. Kay said.
“Making sure we invest in higher education, is investing in the future of Kentucky,” Grimes said during her speech.
Student Government Association senator and EKU’s speaker, Ryan Wiggins, asked that the government start investing in students rather than cutting their funds.
“I don’t want there to be a single Kentucky high school student not able to attend college because they can’t afford it,” said Wiggins. “Higher education shouldn’t be a privilege, especially for those who want to break vicious cycles.”
EKU SGA members and other students attended the rally in support of Wiggins and repealing the budget cuts. A crowd size of 250 people was approximated, and Colonels were scattered throughout.
Kentucky SGA President Jay Todd Richey said that six out of ten of the state’s college students borrow money from the government, meaning cuts could cause major issues for much of Kentucky’s public institutions.
“This is wrong for students. This is bad for Kentucky. This is unacceptable,” said Richey.
In his speech, Beshear said that the collective national student loan debt has reached $1.3 trillion—the largest of any nation. Since filing the lawsuit against Bevin, Beshear said has restored more than $23 million back into the Kentucky’s higher education fund.
“Trying to control our universities out of Frankfort is wrong,” Beshear said after announcing that all students deserve the opportunity to attend college.
Senator David Givens advised students not to point fingers, but to engage in discussions, saying, “I am not encouraging you to wait, but to persist.”
Representatives at the rally said they continue to urge students to use their voices and stand up against the legislature.
High school speaker Zachariah Sippy, who spoke on behalf of Kentucky’s high school population said, “wait has almost always meant never, we cannot afford to wait.”
Beshear and Grimes urge students to continue using their voices and stand up against the legislature.
“When they tell you to sit down, you will stand,” said Grimes. “And when they tell you to be quiet, you will yell.”