Politics & Government

Fletcher calls for more student aid

FRANKFORT - Gov. Ernie Fletcher told university students yesterday that he understood their struggle with high college costs and said that's why he has asked the 2007 General Assembly for $25 million in new money for student financial aid.

Fletcher, a Republican who is running for re-election, drew cheers and applause as he defended his record of support for higher education.

But among several speakers at the rally of about 250 public university students, state Treasurer Jonathan Miller, D-Lexington, was the showstopper.

Miller, one of seven Democrats running for governor, delivered a brisk speech that quickly set up a rousing call-and-response between Miller, 39, and his audience of twentysomethings.

Miller told his listeners that they had the power to do something about their issues, including high tuition.

"The time is now, the place is here and the moment is ours," he called out and continued to repeat as he spoke. The students picked up the words and the rhythm, sending their enthusiastic chant echoing up and down the Capitol Rotunda.

"I loved his speech," said Emily Wells, 18, a first-year student in police studies at Eastern Kentucky University. "He really got into our culture."

She was referring, in part, to Miller's urging that the students go to Facebook.com, a popular Web site, and "tell everybody that you're a friend of Jonathan Miller."

Kyra Kendrick, 19, a sophomore psychology major at the University of Louisville, said Miller "seemed more sincere."

"He came up and shook hands with everybody before they spoke," she said.

Chris Seals, 20, a U of L junior majoring in psychology, called Miller "inspirational" and "innovative."

"He was moving," Seals said.

Saying "this state cannot afford any more of its old-time politics," Miller told the students that higher education has been hurt by the elimination of the Bucks for Brains matching-funds for the universities. He named no villains, but he said the constant rise in tuition is putting a heavy burden "on the backs of those who can least afford it."

Earlier, Fletcher said that tuition at the state's universities had gone up 145 percent during the last 10 years and he wants to see legislators address this issue in their current session and in 2008.