Northern Kentucky University students and faculty are calling on the governor and the legislature to restore higher education funding.
At a rally Thursday, they sang "Do You Hear the People Sing?" from Les Miserables and chanted slogans including "Fund our teachers," while marching around campus.
Mark Leeman, associate professor of communication, says there's been a systematic defunding of higher education. He says in 2002, Kentucky paid 71 percent of the cost of higher education, while only 23 percent of higher education spending will come from the state this year.
Leeman says the difference is made up by higher tuition. "We are going to fork off on you what amounts to a mortgage," he says. "We are mortgaging millennials. You are paying tuition tax. Don't believe your governor when he says he wants to cut taxes. He wants to cut taxes on his people and fork it off on students."
Kentucky legislators passed a budget restoring some funding to higher education, but Governor Matt Bevin vetoed the spending bill.
In an op-ed released Tuesday, Governor Bevin writes, "In both 2015 and 2016, Kentuckians sent a powerful message at the voting booth, mandating a change in the status quo and demanding a break in Frankfort’s longstanding habit of fiscal irresponsibility. I was elected, with a majority of the vote in 106 of our 120 counties, to help build a solid financial future for Kentucky."
Associate Professor Jacqueline Emerine says there are ways to cut spending without making college students pay. "Defunding education is going to have negative effects across this state. There has to be a different way to do this. And because of the pension, and because it's been mismanaged for decades, they're trying to raise all these costs for universities which then trickles down to our students and they're paying the ultimate price."
Emerine says she doesn't know what else could be cut or if tax increases are good options. She says lawmakers should look at legalized gambling or higher tobacco taxes.
The legislature also approved a cigarette tax and an expansion of sales taxes, but Governor Bevin vetoed that measure, too. Lawmakers have until Saturday to decide what to do.