I am worried about my students. I teach writing at Morehead State University which means a large percentage of my students are first-generation college students. To be a first-generation college student in Appalachia means you are likely to have neither the financial or practical support other college students can take for granted. You may even be the first to have graduated from high school in your family. Your family understands hard work and wants more opportunities for you, but they don’t understand the kind of hard work success in college requires because it doesn’t look like any definition of work they understand. This lack of understanding and support brings with it a heavy emotional and psychological toll that my students must pay every day on top of the normal stress of college.
Now their lives are going to become even more difficult as their support systems are further reduced and I worry about the number of students who will lose their only chance at an education as a result. The budget cuts proposed for Morehead State University will have a serious impact on my students who are already in a fragile state. I have not been made privy to how our administration will handle these cuts, but I know after a relentless series of heavy budget cuts that all the easy cuts were made long ago. All that remains are personnel cuts – people – the people who teach our classes and provide important support services for our students. This will have a very direct and serious impact on my students.
As an instructor with seniority I am as confident as anyone can be in this fraught time that my job will still exist, but I believe that one or more of my colleagues (just in my department, I shudder to think about the carnage beyond that level) will lose their job. This will have a direct impact on students. Our department has shrunk repeatedly in recent years due to the relentless attacks on higher education while we (every member of our department teaches these foundational classes) teach critical thinking and communication skills essential for success in college and beyond. However, the most important role we play is to mentor and coach those first-generation college students facing a higher risk of failure. They need our classes to be capped at reasonable sizes and our teaching loads to be reasonable so we have the time for these essential roles. We have already been forced to cut back on programs that provided valuable professional experiences for our students. It breaks my heart to deny my students opportunities, but there are only so many hours in the day and every time my teaching load increases I have to find the time somewhere. Also, additional faculty cuts will mean fewer class offerings and some students will not have the opportunity to take these foundational courses during their first year in college. This could be disastrous for at-risk first-generation college students.
Morehead State University serves an important and underserved region. Eastern Kentucky has lower rates of educational attainment and higher rates of poverty than other areas of our state. Our students deserve better and if we ever hope to turn things around in Kentucky then we need to invest more money in our students – not less.
If you care about the future of Morehead State University and my students please show your support using the Fund The Solution handy email form to contact our state legislators or contact Gov. Matt Bevin directly.