March 3, 2016

Students Ask Allies to Stand With Them, Focus on College Affordability

FRANKFORT — Thursday morning a coalition convened by members of the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team in the Capitol Rotunda emphasized the need for a renewed and sustained focus in Kentucky on college affordability. 

Citing a nearly 45% jump in residential undergraduate tuition at Kentucky’s four-year institutions and an over 30% jump in Kentucky’s Career and Technical College System since 2008, students said that for too many of their peers, higher education has become out of reach.  

“This financial challenge makes college an impossible dream for many low-income students, particularly when need-based scholarships are so hard to come by in Kentucky,” said Eliza Jane Schaeffer, a senior at Henry Clay High School in Lexington who emceed the presentation, billed Ready for College but No Way To Go. “Last year, 66% of the 62,200 qualifying low-income students were denied college scholarships due to a lack of funds.”

The event, which was organized by the Student Voice Team’s middle school through college-aged members, also drew education policy leaders, elected officials, parents, teachers, and school administrators from across the state.  It featured stories of the students affected directly by the sharp increase in college cost and decrease in state support. 

Jay Schrader, a senior at Gallatin County School, described his predicament from the podium. “I got my acceptance letter from Eastern, and it was bittersweet,” he said. “I’m almost positive I’m going to have to get some loans, but loans mean debt, and I don’t want to be neck-deep or dependent on the government. I’m feeling overwhelmed.”

Andrew Brennen, student director of the Student Voice Team said, “We are pulling the rug out from our young people in particular but also from the Commonwealth as a whole.  If we are serious about supporting Kentucky’s future workforce to be globally competitive, then we need to more seriously invest in the further education of our students.” 

Joining students at the event were coalition partners including representatives from the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges & Universities, the Hope Street Group, and the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. 

The Kentucky Student Voice Team is an independent, youth-led, statewide organization that supports students as research, policy, and advocacy partners to ensure Kentucky’s education system is as equitable, just, and as excellent as it can be. Until 2021, it was part of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, an independent, nonpartisan, citizen-led organization working to improve education in Kentucky—early childhood through postsecondary.