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Students Raise The Volume On Higher Ed Cuts

More than a hundred college students and supporters set up camp at the foot of the Capitol Annex in Frankfort Thursday for a protest of Gov. Matt Bevin's recommended cuts to higher education.

Credit Josh James / WUKY
Protest sign from Thursday's "March for Education" in Frankfort

Bundled in blankets and clutching signs warning that "Education Cuts Never Heal" and admonishing the General Assembly to "Cut the bull, not the budget," students brave the chilly temperatures in the hopes that lawmakers and a fiscally-minded governor will warm to their message.

Manning the bullhorn is Murray State sophomore Tori Lynn Wood, who hit the road before 5 a.m. this morning to stand on this spot.

"If we didn't have the funding that we were given, I would not be where I am today," she reports, prompting cheers from the shivering audience.

The gathering attracts a handful of legislators including Rep. Reginald Meeks and James Kay, a House Democrat from Versailles, who both agree students' must make their presence felt in the halls of the Capitol. Wood says activism is a crucial ingredient in the process.

"I don't see why Bevin would change [the budget] if we don't put up a fight," she tells WUKY. "They say they put grease on the squeaky wheel and we're going to be that darn squeaky wheel today because we want our funding."

While university presidents have labeled the mid-year and biennial cuts "draconian," Bevin has reiterated that the reductions - however painful - are needed to shore up the state's anemic pension system. He's also argued a workforce shortage demands that taxpayers no longer subsidize less in-demand careers, earning the ire of French literature majors who were singled out as an example. That makes Murray State Assistant English and Philosophy Professor Andy Black anxious.

"It seems a premium is being put on more of the hard sciences and things like that, which are obviously important. I think that's what's ultimately going to happen is that systems of assessment will be put into place that won't benefit students who want to study the humanities or other disciplines that aren't promoted by the state," he predicts.

So far, Bevin has shown no signs of backing down on his pledge to tie higher education funding to outcomes, telling reporters earlier this month he will not a sign a budget that doesn't move in that direction.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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