The fight goes to Frankfort

Students from Kentucky’s higher education institutions gathered in the State Capitol during the annual Rally for Higher Education Feb. 20 to protest the proposed 15 percent budget cuts to funding.

While temperatures outside were freezing, the Capitol Rotunda was hot as students packed-in shoulder-to-shoulder, representing universities across the state – including Northern Kentucky University.

Students wore shirts boasting “I am NKU,” carried signs reading “Don’t Cut NKU’s Budget” and “You Can’t Spell KeNtucKy’s FUture without NKU,” and chanted “We are worth it” and “Education pays.”

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear entered the rotunda to a chorus of cheers, broken by a smattering of boos. Nevertheless, Beshear’s message was clear.

“Higher education has to be one of the top priorities of the future of the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Beshear said. “This budget does not contain enough money for higher education.”

Beshear noted the deficit is not something he created, but something he inherited. He has proposed expanded gaming to fix the financing fiasco. But he also encouraged citizens to tell the legislature how to solve the problem.

When Sec. of State Trey Grayson took the podium, he said if it wasn’t the biggest rally he’d seen, it was certainly the loudest, prompting cheers from the crowd.

“It’s good to have this many people here,” Grayson said. “But it takes more than one day.”

University President James Votruba also attended, saying “The rally was a great expression of the students’ concern over the current budget and its impact on higher education.”

Votruba credited the Student Government Association with the high turn out.

“Our group this year, I think, is setting an even higher standard than previous groups,” Votruba said.

Jeremy Jackson, a senior history major, said he thought the students’ voices were heard, but he remains unsure of the impact it will have.

“I hope my little brother won’t have to put up with excruciatingly high tuition rates,” Jackson said.

Dean of Students Matt Brown said Beshear’s attendance particularly impressed him.

“Hopefully it got the attention it deserved,” Brown said.