Gov. Beshear speaks at virtual Rally for Higher Education

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The annual Rally for Higher Education took place virtually on Friday, featuring Governor Andy Beshear as the keynote speaker.

The event, hosted by the Kentucky Board of Student Body Presidents (BSBP), allowed students from across the Commonwealth to voice their concerns about education issues to state leaders.

Student body president at Western Kentucky University, Garrett Edmonds, opened the rally, along with Morehead State Student Government Association President Emily Wiley, vice-chair of the BSBP.

Organizers said the goal was to ensure students take away a more confident sense of advocacy for their university and community.

“This is the one event each year that gives student leaders across the state the opportunity to talk about what really matters to them and how to advocate in an effective way,” said Wiley.

Gov. Beshear opened by talking about the COVID-19 pandemic and how things have changed for students.

“Be patient and vigilant,” said Beshear who also talked about his priorities. “Mine is foremost an education first administration.”

Gov. Beshear noted things are obviously different for students this year with the pandemic but assured, “Importance of educators and education is at the core of my values.”

Beshear also addressed his budget from last month, saying he proposed reinvestment in higher education. That included an additional $17 million pledged for post secondary institutions which is a 2% increase in general fund investment.

As part of the budget, Gov. Beshear also highlighted $50 million for asset preservation projects like $20 million in funding to help campuses cover pension obligations.

An expansion to the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship program was also discussed for nearly 6,300 Kentuckians.

“We are so proud of what that scholarship already accomplished,” said Beshear.

The governor expanded saying the scholarship covers up to 60 hours of tuition for anyone who has not earned a degree and that assistance is completely free for the wide variety of high demand tech programs. He also noted more than 350 courses are currently available.

According to Gov. Beshear, the scholarship has served 5,600 students with more than $16 million awarded since 2017.

Buffalo Be Still from Nappy Roots is the spokesperson for the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship.

Dr. Aaron Thompson, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), also shared remarks during the rally.

“Investment in higher ed is the most direct correlation to an educative workforce that sustains an economy,” said Dr. Thompson.

Thompson shared four main priorities he established when he took on the role at CPE. According to Dr. Thompson, the priorities focus on affordability; how we get more credentials with regards to quantity, without leaving anybody behind; as well as quality; and putting value back into higher education.

Gov. Beshear concluded by reitering the need to invest in higher education, adding, “Now is where we decide where we’re going to stack up in the post covid economy.”

Following Beshear and Thompson’s speeches, the BSBP hosted panels with experts on topics such as diversity and inclusion, how to address politicized divides on campuses, how to move forward during COVID-19, mental health and more to inform students about how these issues are being addressed at schools in Kentucky.

Following the sessions, students were able to meet virtually with their legislators to discuss what higher education means to them and why it should be a priority to their representatives.

“I have attended the Rally for Higher Education since I was a freshman here at MSU,” said Wiley. “As a first-generation college student, I heavily value the importance of furthering my education and how it will impact my future. Whether you are in a leadership organization or not, it is important to advocate for your community, and this event is a great first step to doing so.”

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