Today: Apr 14, 2024

Higher education advocates testify before state legislators for better funding

Ali Fernand- Editor-in-Chief

Students, faculty and staff of Connecticut public higher education institutions testified at the state capitol in Hartford to advocate for more funding. 

Governor Ned Lamont’s State of the State address took place on Feb. 7, announcing the official state budget. Those involved in state schools and community colleges were disappointed at the lack of funding for education. This has led these institutions to raise tuition rates for students to make up for the budget deficits.  

Among those testifying to state representatives on Tuesday, Feb. 20 were students and faculty from the university who advocated for the university, its sister schools and the community colleges. 

Chancellor of CSCU Terrence Cheng at the public hearing at the state capitol in Hartford on Tuesday, Feb. 20. Photo: Ali Fernand

“We need to halt the ‘march of folly’ in Connecticut by fully funding public education – from birth to 3; from PreK-12; and across all campuses of the CSCU (Connecticut State Colleges and Universities) system,” professor of educational leadership and council member of the CSU-AAUP (Connecticut State University American Association of University Professors) Christopher Trombly said.  

In this testimony, Trombly references the book “The March of Folly” by Barbara Tuchman, which points out how legislators carry out policies which serve contrary to their goals.  

Trombly was present at the capitol for both the public hearing and press conference. At the hearing, he explained how consequential public education is to vulnerable students.  

“Folly is a polite way of characterizing Governor Lamont’s latest budget proposal– a proposal that continues to prioritize bondholders and rating agencies over families who can only dream of having enough money left over after paying for groceries, clothing, rent and utilities to open investment portfolios,” Trombly said. “A proposal that promises to perpetuate disparate and disrespectful effects upon under-resourced working people in this state, a great many of them people of color.” 

Students also made their concerns known to Connecticut representatives. With their perspectives, they were able to testify how funding benefits their life and their education.  

“There are also programs and resources that my friends use, for example, tutoring, which provides helping other students with classes and providing a job to another and student interactions,” nursing major Simon Dinglason, a freshman said.  

Dinglasan talked about the resources on the university’s campus that have helped both him and his friends have a better experience in their education. He said that he is grateful that these resources exist for him and his friends.  

Not only does Dinglasan find value in educational help on campus, but he acknowledges other resources that improve students’ lives. 

“They also use the food pantry and library on campus,” Dinglasan said. “These resources help my friends eat and get books to study for classes.” 

Resources like the library and food pantry were expressed to be valuable to students and the campus community. Since public institutions tend to have students of underprivileged backgrounds, having access to food can be necessary for some students.  

Those testifying also brought up that funding these institutions does not just concern the individual needs of students. Funding for higher education helps to adequately train those entering fields that are essential to everyone in the state.  

“The CSCU system educates the preponderance of classroom teachers, special educators, social workers, nurses and mental health clinicians in this state,” Trombly said. “Professions that the General Assembly and the Lamont administration acknowledge must be racially and ethnically diversified to reflect the blossoming racial and ethnic diversity of our state.” 

Though Interim President Dwayne Smith did not testify before representatives, he did attend the public hearing. Smith sat in the front row as Chancellor of CSCU Terrence Cheng spoke at the capitol. 

Cheng testified before representatives for over an hour. In an interview with Southern News, Cheng explained the impact of the many testimonies advocating for public college funding.  

“The student panels are, I would argue, the most influential and the most moving part of this whole process because legislators get to hear directly from the students what the impact is, the impact of their decisions,” Cheng said.  

After Cheng gave his own testimony around 6 p.m., he remained at the capitol to hear the other testimonies until about 10 p.m. The lengthy public hearing began around 5 p.m. and lasted until midnight.  

“We don’t have giant endowments; we don’t have massive research grants,” Cheng said. “We are very proudly a regional public university that serves students that I think in some cases wouldn’t have a chance to go to college without us, and that’s something to be incredibly proud of.” 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Latest from Blog