PLEASE NOTE: Montre’ale Jones (mentioned & pictured below) is a former Summer in the City intern.
Article By Rebecca Walter, KY New Era Staff Writer
Gov. Matt Bevin, followed by several local and state officials, walked up and down the halls of Hopkinsville Community College on Tuesday for a small glimpse of day-to-day operations, and afterward called the institution the “lifeblood” and “fabric of this community.”
Bevin spent more than an hour touring the college, and every few minutes ducked into a classroom or office to meet with students, faculty and staff. During one of his first stops, he even took a moment to take a “selfie” with a few students. Following him every step of the way were several HCC faculty and staff members, including HCC President Dr. Jay Allen, education secretary Hal Heiner and John Tilley, head of the justice cabinet.
Running slightly behind schedule because of the frequent stops, the governor took part in a “roundtable” discussion with area business owners and local officials.
Allen gave a brief introduction, reminding the governor he was in one of the most diverse higher educational institutions in the state, which boosts statistics such as serving the largest number of veteran students of any college in the state.
Allen also noted to the packed conference room that 93 percent of students at HCC receive some type of financial aid.
Bevin spent a little more than 30 minutes answering questions varying from how to equip today’s college students with the tools they will need in the working world, to how to increase funding for the Rotary Club of Hopkinsville’s scholarship program.
He emphasized the importance of workforce development, and told attendees he doesn’t like the term “soft skills,” and encouraged them to refer to them as “life skills from here on out.”
An example of a student with outstanding life skills, the governor said, is HCC student Montre’ale Jones. Bevin met Jones earlier in the day, and said he was impressed with how he presented himself, and the goals he told Bevin he has for the future, like becoming an architect.
“I think we can change the world one Montre’ale Jones at a time,” the governor said.
HCC student Montre’ale Jones (left) takes a moment to chat with Gov. Matt Bevin. The governor said earlier in the day the world needs more people like Jones.
Gov. Matt Bevin takes a “selfie” with Hopkinsville Community College students during a campus tour on Tuesday.
Bevin’s visit to HCC comes just weeks after he released his proposed budget, which allocates fewer dollars for higher education.
While he didn’t publicly go too far into the cuts on Tuesday, he briefly spoke with reporters before heading off to Eddyville to visit the Kentucky State Penitentiary.
The cuts are going to affect “everything in education,” Bevin said.
“Of course when you cut dollars, it forces people to prioritize the dollars that are left. It forces people to make decisions and do cost benefit analysis of every program, of every expenditure, no question,” Bevin said. “…and I’d love to not have to do that. But everywhere across government we’re doing it. We’ve exempted as many things as we possibly can.”
The governor is hoping one way to offset the cuts is to taking full advantage of the state lottery dollars. Bevin’s plan proposes 100 percent of Kentucky Lottery proceeds going to scholarships for the first time in several years.
“So while we’re taking it on one hand, and are asking people to tighten their belts, in order to shore up our pension obligations, which we have to pay for, we are also on the other hand trying to offset that to the absolute degree possible,” the governor said.
Bevin’s proposed budget would provide a $100 million bond pool for workforce development programs, which he believes could benefit educational institutions like HCC.
However, it also intends to put a 4.5 percent reductions in funding this fiscal year on universities and colleges, along with several other state agencies. Those cuts would rise to 9 percent over the next two years, the Bevin’s budget plan is approved.
HCC falls under the 16-college umbrella of the larger Kentucky Community and Technical College System. Although HCC is eleventh in size in KCTCS, it is dead last in funding.
Allen previously told the New Era decreased state funding is nothing new to the college. In the past eight years, he said, HCC alone has experienced a roughly $1.3 million decrease in state appropriations, while fixed costs have shot up the same amount, creating a $2.7 million negative impact.
Staff and program decreases, along with a possible tuition hike, are on the table, Allen previously said.
The governor is expected to wrap up the day Tuesday attending a fundraising event of Republican Walker Thomas, who is running for the vacant seat in House District 8, at the Hopkinsville home of Hal and Elizabeth McCoy.