Lobbyists speak against tuition increases and budget cuts
Taylor Nicole Richards – News Writer
On March 9, student lobbyists from Southern and other CSU’s will have the opportunity to speak face-to-face with legislators at the state capital against tuition increases and faculty budget cuts. On Feb. 29, students, faculty, and community members met in the English common room to plan their course of action.
Conn. is under a “budget crisis” and legislators are in a short session to close a $500 million budget cut, according to Cindy Stretch, professor of English and Chapter President of the Faculty Union. The purpose of March 9 meetup is to connect legislators with students to hear their stories. The goal is to put “real faces on real problems” so the students’ arguments will hold more power.
“You’re their constituents, you elected these people. You don’t need to be an expert on budgets to know how a tuition increase will affect you. You are an expert on your own situation,” said Stretch to the members in Feb.’s meeting. “If a legislator hears from four or five constituents on an issue, that’s a tsunami of interest.”
Currently all faculty and staff, which includes maintenance workers, secretaries and custodial workers are all under contract negotiations with the Board of Regents, their employer. Stretch and the faculty union is concerned about proposals the Board will make to consolidate or eliminate programs within the CSU system.
“If your school stops offering your major, you either have to transfer and drive to a different CSU or change your major,” said Stretch. “They already cut part-time faculty. Has anyone noticed they couldn’t get a section they needed? If you can’t get the classes you need, it takes longer to graduate. If it takes longer to graduate, you have to take out more loans. That postpones your entry into the workforce. There’s an opportunity cost at stake.”
Kathleen Skoczen, professor of anthropology, said that she paid $50 per semester when she attended San Diego State in 1983. She said that public education should be accessible to everyone.
“I’m getting involved because my son can’t find the degree program he wants at Eastern, but it’s available at Tulane University for almost $60,000 a year. This is inequality,” said Skoczen.
Closing budget gaps means cutting resources and raising tuition at state schools. Tuition has raised 75 percent in the last ten years, and Southern’s tuition is planning on raising another 5 percent, or $480, according to Stretch. She questioned how many more hours a student would have to work a year to take home an extra $480.
“We can’t let legislature close this gap on your backs,” said Jaime Meyers, community organizer in New Haven Rising, an economic and social justice organization. “When state schools lose their public accessibility, it directly affects the workforce of struggling communities. Opportunities are being cut along with the budget.”
After everyone in the group presented why they are getting involved in Lobby Day, Stretch showed through a projector how simple it is to get a legislator’s contact information online. On cga.ct.gov, anyone in Connecticut can find who their legislators are by typing in their own home address. Stretch is urging all students to find theirs and give them a call if they cannot make it to the capital.
Scott Marks, a student also involved in New Haven Rising, is planning on going to Hartford March 9 to tell his story face-to-face.
“I have five sisters. Three are coming to college in the next few years. My family can’t afford that,” said Marks. “I’m going to ask my legislator personally if his decisions will be in support of my family.”
Photo Credit: Taylor Nicole Richards – News Writer