Student presidents focus on affordability

Rally for Higher education was canceled on Tuesday afternoon due to in-climate weather on Feb. 9, 2010.The Student government met with the governor and they plan to reschedule the rally for the end of Fedbruary. Photo by William Baldon

By Taylor Moak

The Capitol Building in Frankfort was silent Tuesday when it should have been filled with students.

The Rally for Higher Education scheduled for Tuesday afternoon was canceled after much of the state received snow, making travel difficult for many participants. The rally was to be an opportunity for college and university students throughout Kentucky to express concerns to state legislators.

Despite the snow, the student body presidents from seven of Kentucky’s eight public universities met with Gov. Steve Beshear to discuss higher education concerns. Only the student body president of Northern Kentucky University was absent. These presidents serve on the Board of Student Body Presidents.

Chris Crumrine, Council of Postsecondary Education student representative, also attended the meeting. As CPE student representative, Crumrine was appointed by the governor to represent more than 250,000 of Kentucky’s students in the government.

UK Student Government Ryan Smith said the presidents are looking to secure affordability of higher education in the future. Smith said the presidents met with legislators to advocate for this year and to plan for issues down the road.

Democrat Greg Stumbo, Kentucky’s Speaker of the House, said the state legislature recognizes the need for affordable education.  He said the legislature is working to keep costs down so higher education can be affordable and accessible.

A bill was passed last week that will give more foster-care children a chance to go to college, Stumbo said. Still, Stumbo said, more needs to be done.

Universities currently have stimulus money to help with financial concerns, but the presidents want to plan for when the money runs out, Smith said.

Crumrine said unforeseen costs like textbook prices need to be addressed in affordability of higher education. The presidents and Crumrine are working with the state legislature to increase financial aid and help “keep the affordability gap from widening.”

Crumrine said the “total cost” and the “ticket price” of higher education do not always match.

Kara Mantooth, student body president at Murray State University, said the meeting with Beshear was encouraging and said the presidents are looking for creative ways to lower the cost of the “overall student experience.”

Afsi Siahkoohi, student body president at Eastern Kentucky University, said each student body president brings different concerns because they each come from different institutions.

However, Kevin Smiley, student body president at Western Kentucky University, said the universities, the student body presidents and the state government are all connected.

“(In) moving the state forward, (we’re) all on the same team,” Smiley said.

O.J. Oleka, student body president at the University of Louisville, said the meeting focused on various issues of higher education including revenue and decreasing college costs.

This was the second consecutive year that the rally was canceled due to weather conditions. The student body presidents set the date last semester and were disappointed it was canceled again.

However, Smith said Beshear encouraged the presidents to come back and “send the message to legislators about the importance of higher education.”

The presidents hope to reschedule the rally for the last week of February.

Oleka said the presidents want to reschedule because they know “rain nor sleet nor snow will hold back students from rally.”