WKU budget deficit creates hardships on rural students

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Darkness fills the windows of offices that once were home to faculty and staff members at Western Kentucky University Glasgow.

After the second round of budget cuts, four filled positions were eliminated at Glasgow’s campus and a professor was transferred to main campus.

The reduction in force has discontinued the agriculture, animal science and human anatomy classes that once were offered to students.

Glasgow’s Sociology department went from offering a range of 100 to 400 level classes to now only offering one 100, 300 and 400 level courses that are taught online through an interactive bi-term.

Tenured Sociology Professor, Nicole Breazeale has taught at Glasgow’s campus for seven years but will be moved to teach in Bowling Green for Fall 2018.

Breazeale said many of her classes are community-based projects that allow students to make an impact on the community they live in.

“Part of what is so beautiful about incorporating them into the Glasgow campus is that when the semester ends students who feel very strongly about these projects continue to work on them,” Breazeale said. “Because this in fact is their community and that is not the case in main campus for many students Bowling Green is not their home community and not where they will be in the future.”

Breazeale said her class worked on a project addressing food and home insecurity and were able to create a solution by building a community garden.

For Sophomore Hanna Perry being a part of the community project motivated her to return to school when she faced family struggles.

“There is no way possible that I think that I could even get back on that path of where I am supposed to be without Western Glasgow,” Perry said. “Not main campus Western in Glasgow, without Dr. B, without people that are students just like me.”

Perry enrolled at WKU Glasgow in 2012 but took a break from 2016-2018 to nurse her grandmother back to health after finding out she was diagnosed with Lymphoma cancer.

After feeling like her grandmother was in better health she returned to school spring 2018 and enrolled in Research Methods with Professor Breazeale.

During the semester her grandmother passed away and two weeks later her home and possessions burned in an electrical fire.

“I could easily go get a factory job and say forget it. I could easily get a job making somewhat decent money. For me it’s just not good enough,” Perry said. “Because no matter if I’m working a full-time job with two kids, no matter if I’m grieving the loss of my grandmother, no matter if I’m grieving the loss of my house and all of my things there is still this whole big world out here and you can’t not see these injustices that are happening on a daily basis.”

Perry missed one class to grieve the loss of her grandmother and relocate to Hart county.

Although she faced challenges outside of the classroom she said she continued to stay motivated to return to school.

Rural campuses are structured to accommodate the students they serve by offering classes that are longer in hours and meet fewer times a week.

Breazeale said it is not uncommon for her students to take six to nine hours of classes in one day so they are able to work full time and take care of family members while obtaining their degree.

Many of her students are concerned that having to commute 45 minutes to main campus and have more classes in shorter time spans will make it harder to retain students.

“It’s not just about going to school and getting a degree for these students,” Breazeale said. “It’s about having hope for a different kind of future for their lives and imagining themselves differently for their communities.”

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