Students at Slippery Rock University will have the opportunity to express concern about Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed budget cuts to higher education through a variety of events scheduled for this month.
Corbett is seeking to cut 20 percent, or $82.5 million, of funding to Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) schools for the upcoming fiscal year.
The Republican governor already cut funding by a record 18 percent a year ago.
Students, faculty and administrators around all PASSHE schools are holding protests as the state budget hearings are set to begin next week.
The SRU Student Government Association is leading the protest amongst students on campus, with a series of events aimed to bring attention to the matter.
It’s something that SGA President Jordan Bailley feels is important to campus life.
“I believe it’s important to bring the issue of funding into discussion on our campus and around Pennsylvania,” Bailleysaid. “Not simply every February when the budget is discussed, but all year round. It’s been my goal since elected to have an engaged student body. An engaged student body can listen and respond when issues like higher education are discussed.”
SGA is teaming up with several organizations to accomplish the protests, most notably partnering with the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) to host a rally on Feb. 28 during common hour in the quad.
The rally will be centered on the release of balloons in a symbolic gesture. APSCUF is funding the event.
“This will be an environmentally friendly balloon release signifying our dissatisfaction with the proposed budget,”Bailley said. “The balloons signify the funding being cut from higher education in Pennsylvania. Some people are looking into adding supplemental activities to this, including speakers on behalf of higher education.”
Jace Condravy, the SRU president of APSCUF, expects strong support from the student body during the assembly.
“Students will be directly affected by the governor’s proposal, so we expect that many students will want to have their voices heard,” Condravy said.
SGA plans to hold smaller events during the week as well in order to inform as many students as possible about the situation.
SGA members in charge of organizing the events hope to have voter registration tables and letter writing stations in the University Union on an adjacent day to the rally in the quad.
They also plan to hand out informative flyers on the budget cuts to students all around campus.
SGA also hopes to get student interaction by having students write down things threatened by the budget cuts, which will be read off at the rally.
Organizers are also planning to utilize social media to protest the cuts with a Facebook page and YouTube videos showing student opposition to the cuts.
“We’re having events in the quad all week to make students more knowledgeable about budget cuts,” MichaelMcCarter, an SGA member involved in organizing the events, said. “It’s important for students to know about this because parts of the university could completely go away if funding is cut.”
Bailley reiterated the point that it is important to reach all of the campus because all students would be affected by the budget cut.
“I hope to attract any and every student who can attend the rally and other events that are important to them,” Bailley said. “This particular issue affects undergraduates, graduates and post-baccalaureate students. This affects students who never step a foot on our campus because they take online classes. It affects in-state students and out-of-state students.”
All students would be affected by the cuts, according to Condravy, because they would lower the quality of education at PASSHE schools.
“Reduced state funding for state-owned universities has two major effects: raised tuition for students whom we know to be already struggling with a 7.5 percent tuition increase from last year in a weakened economy, and reductions in staffing and programs at the university, which lowers the quality of education that students and their parents are paying for,” Condravy said.
More expensive schooling would be particularly detrimental for lower-income students having an opportunity to get a higher education, according to Condravy.
“The reduced commitment from the state to support its public universities further exacerbates the growing inequality that exists between socio-economic classes,” Condravy said. “Excellent public higher education is the only avenue for many, many middle and working class students to a better economic future, and the state is beginning to put that laudable goal out of reach for this generation.”
In order to ensure the quality of education at SRU, Bailley is hoping the planned events can have an impact on the continued budget talks at the state level.
“My main goal is for the taxpayers and voters of Pennsylvania, legislators in Harrisburg, our Governor and for all students all over Pennsylvania to hear and see the incredible achievements made by Slippery Rock students and the PASSHE system as a whole,” Bailley said. “I want to stay as positive as can be, building positive relationships with the aforementioned groups so they can see the amazing return on their investment in our students.”