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Commentary: Lawmakers Must Make Kentucky State University A Priority

State Normal School for Colored People is what it was called in 1886, when three teachers and 55 students became the second state-supported institution of higher learning in Kentucky.

One hundred thirty years and five name changes later, Kentucky State University, the school I attended and love, is in danger of closing due to proposed budget cuts by newly elected Governor Matt Bevin.

The proposed 13.5 percent cut over two years would cripple the Historically Black University in Frankfort that has been in financial distress for several years. University President Raymond Burse said he thinks K-State is the "victim of unintended consequences,” and that "no one is declaring defeat.”

But with $17 million in unpaid tuition and a significant drop in enrollment, the future of the school is cloudy.

To me, though, its future can still be bright.

K-State offered me a chance at higher education when no one else would. My years in Frankfort molded me and helped me become the person I am today. The people I met and the relationships I formed will last a lifetime. At K-State, we were a family of underprivileged yet determined students. Years later, my own daughter went to college there, too.

K-State has offered the opportunity of a degree to generations of young black people throughout the region. My schoolmates were from Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, St.Louis and D.C., as well as Shelbyville, Lexington and Bowling Green. They went on to become principals, teachers, lawyers, doctors, financial advisers, U.S. government employees and clergymen, among many other professions.

K-State isn't the only school facing cuts, but the effects on the small liberal arts school could be irreversible. House Speaker Greg Stumbo said the state legislature would try to keep it from closing. Other elected officials have voiced concerns as well. They should ensure it’s a priority in upcoming budget talks.

As a former student, I sincerely hope my beloved K-State U is around for another 130 years so the next generation can get their degrees, grow into leaders and move Kentucky forward.
WFPL’s commentaries run Friday mornings online and on 89.3 FM. To read more, click here.

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