This past Monday, the SRSGA voted to support the Nellie Bly Scholarship Fund proposed by Governor Wolf. Having the opportunity to potentially make this historic proposal reality and invest $204 million back into the students of Pennsylvania state schools was an opportunity that I, as a senator, did not take lightly. Pennsylvania ranks at the bottom of state higher education funding and has some of the highest amounts of student debt in the country, so a true needs-based investment in the students of the state of Pennsylvania is a rare sight to see.
In voting for this proposal, members of the SRSGA Senate were given large amounts of data to support the proposal, alongside testimony from faculty members who were strongly in support of the measure. The data we were given showed that this scholarship was a mostly risk-free venture for us to take – the money was coming out of state gambling funds, specifically money used to pay owners of racehorses, which is then immediately taken out of the state and often out of the country entirely. This proposal takes that money and reinvests it into students in Pennsylvania, even working to ensure they stay in state for a period after graduating.
The oppostion to this motion that manifested itself on the Senate floor was, to me, immensely confusing – I think it’s safe to say it’s unclear why a student of a PASSHE school would oppose investing more money into PASSHE students. Complaints of a lack of information was equally perplexing, as we were given numerous articles, statistics and testimonials as to the benefits of this proposal quite a while before it came to a vote. At the end of the day, those of us who were lucky enough to be elected to SGA were elected to serve the students, and voting in favor of this is one of the best ways to potentially help Slippery Rock students, present and future, and potentially reduce the financial burden that they face by large amounts – something I’m sure we all wish we could do. Upon reflection, it seems that major opposition to this came entirely from a partisan stance, which is a true shame, regardless of how few people truly opposed it for that reason (and it was a very small minority). Those opposing it for partisan reasons then refusing to go on the record as actually opposing it and simply abstaining was an extra cherry of cowardice on top of the disappointment sundae.
I was elected to represent students. I was not elected to represent a political party or the gambling lobby. And personally, I know I’m proud to have supported this measure and I know plenty of senators who feel the same. This will be the largest investment of Pennsylvania tax dollars into students in decades, quite possibly ever. Having been a part of the group that put SGA’s backing behind it was the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m absolutely elated we can be a part of real, concrete progress for the students like this.