Students rally for higher education at WKU

Published: Apr. 12, 2018 at 11:01 AM CDT
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Students, faculty and staff at Western Kentucky University rallied Thursday to express the importance of higher education in the commonwealth.

The event was in partnership with similar rallies across the state to show support and solidarity for the different universities in Kentucky.

"College is expensive and the prices just keep going up because of these cuts to higher education," said Fallon Russell, a WKU education major, "so it's making people stray away from wanting to become educators."

Budget cuts aren't the only thing causing tuition to increase. There are also fewer students enrolling, but one professor says it's part of a pattern.

"This is a function of not just declining enrollment or mismanagement of funds," said Nicole Brezeale. "This is really a function of at least a decade or longer assault on public education. In this case, higher education."

"We're going to continue to see this decline into the future," she added, "unless we start paying attention and doing something collectively, meaning having these conversations, coming together as one voice to talk about this."

Brezeale says the issues have been growing over multiple administrations.

"And the reason this is so depressing in this current moment is because in addition to these massive declines in support for higher education over at least a decade. This is not a partisan issue," she said.

The goal of the rally was to bring to attention the effects that budget cuts and staff reductions have not only on the university, but also the state as a whole.

Nicole Brezeale teaches at the WKU Campus in Glasgow and is especially passionate about what decreasing funds have done to higher education in rural areas.

"We've lost about a third of our staff," she explained. "That means bookstores are boarded up administrators' offices are dark. The students have a real worry about the future of academic programs and classes and whether or not they are going to be able to finish their degrees."

WKU is facing roughly a $10 million deficit, and projects about $4 million more due to enrollment decline in the current year.

The university cut nearly 120 full-time jobs last month in order meet the roughly $15 million budget shortfall.