CUMBERLAND — Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College has lost a significant amount of state funding over the last several years, and business leaders are stepping up to let legislators know they agree with Gov. Matt Bevin that Kentucky can do better.
Several local business leaders are serving as Business Champions as part of the Kentucky Community & Technical College System’s (KCTCS) Fuel the Force campaign, which is asking for restoration of postsecondary education funding.
The SKCTC Business Champions Council is asking legislators to support the Council on Postsecondary Education’s (CPE) budget request that recently was submitted to Gov. Bevin. In the request, CPE asks for half of the decrease in state appropriations since 2008 to be restored to the nine public postsecondary education institutions, which includes KCTCS.
Business leaders are concerned about how loss of funding is affecting their ability to hire skilled workers and the effect it has on local economies. So far, 22 people have signed on to the campaign at Southeast and have elected Blake Bowling, Middlesboro city councilman, to chair the council. They are part of statewide group of hundreds of business leaders who’ve become Business Champions.
“Community colleges are the engine of Kentucky’s workforce and are the state’s largest providers of workforce education and training,” said Bowling. “To be a better state, we have to have a well-educated workforce and now is the time to reinvest in Kentucky’s higher education.”
Even though the recession ended several years ago, Kentucky is one of only a handful of states that has not begun reinvesting in higher education. Additionally, Kentucky is one of only three states in the nation — joining Oklahoma and West Virginia — that has continued to cut per student funding for higher education each of the last two years.
“We’re very appreciative of the Business Champions Council and their willingness to tell policy makers how they’re being affected by state budget cuts to higher education and the importance of reinvesting in our college so that Kentucky can become better,” said SKCTC President Dr. Lynn Moore. “These leaders represent the companies we work with regularly and have built relationships with over the years. We are partners in education and job creation for this region.”
The Business Champions Council will take part in a business showcase event during the 2016 General Assembly to highlight the careers they offer and how they align with SKCTC’s programs. Additionally, Champions will attend a legislative rally and reception on Feb. 18 in Frankfort. Other outreach efforts include calls, emails, inviting legislators to visit a workplace or other face-to-face meetings.
Fuel the Force is a statewide campaign created to inform elected officials about the dire need of public postsecondary state appropriations for the 2016-2018 biennium. Business Champions from across the Commonwealth will share personal stories with legislators and the governor about the role local college’s play in the community, and how funding cuts have hurt local employers and the local economy. To learn more about the Fuel the Force campaign and sign a petition of support, visit FueltheForceKY.com.