Higher education budget cuts send students to state rally

December 15, 2010

by Kelly Belton, News Editor

While few Tech students may see the effects from state budget cuts to higher education, other universities and colleges throughout the state are preparing for the worst as cuts are likely to continue in the coming year.

Some students in north Louisiana have taken it upon themselves to work for a change and demand recognition from the state legislature.

At Louisiana State University in Shreveport, a group of students have organized Project: Crisis Call, a group of students, educators, business people and citizens dedicated to raising awareness about the impact of the budget cuts.

Christopher Szabo, a leader of the group and student at LSUS, said work for PCC began this summer but was not officially launched until the third week of October.

“The idea was to put together a petition of 100,000 signatures, have various school events to raise awareness about the budget cuts, and inform the surrounding community about our efforts,” he said.

Tech administrators have said Tech students may see fewer sections available and larger classes, but little else thus far. However, Szabo said the cuts are “very apparent” to the students at LSUS.

“Programs are beginning to see cuts, the budgets have become tighter for organizations and classes are being offered less frequently, resulting in students’ graduation dates being delayed,” he said. “We have faced a 27 percent cut to our budget over the last two years and are receiving another 30 percent cut in the next fiscal year.”

Though currently a Shreveport/Bossier City effort, Szabo said members of PCC are willing to work with students and school outside of the area.

“We have recently been contacted by the Student Coalition at LSU to organize efforts with them as well,” he said. “I think we’d definitely like to see cooperative efforts between [Shreveport/Bossier City] schools and Ruston/Monroe schools, but we need the people willing to start their own groups, and then we can focus our eyes towards one goal with our own problems as arsenals.”

This sort of collaboration would be helpful for PCC’s big plan for April, which involves taking its petition, petition boards full of signatures and as many students as possible to Baton Rouge to protest on the capitol when the legislature reconvenes.

Szabo said PCC would be working on those efforts more over their semester break.

Tech Student Government Association President Emily LaFleur has been involved in various efforts to raise awareness of the state of higher education. At the end of the fall quarter, she traveled to a rally in Baton Rouge with a group of students from Grambling State University.

“The steps of the capitol were peppered with hundreds of people. I joined students and some faculty from various state universities and colleges in the fight,” LaFleur said of the Nov. 10 rally. “Chants, cheers, and speeches full of urgency were yelled over and over. Signs and banners depicting the frustrations and the harsh reality of higher education swung through the air being thrust up with clinched fists.”

In addition to her physical presence at the protest, LaFleur serves on the Council of Student Body Presidents, an organization that has been working with the Board of Regents in finding a solution to the state’s problems concerning higher education.

LaFleur has now started an effort within the SGA with a Higher Education Committee.

“The SGA has recently founded a committee aimed toward informing students on the budget cuts and what they will do to our future,” she said. “It makes no sense that the only solution presented thus far is for us, students, the consumers of higher education, to pay more money for a lesser education, a devalued service.”

LaFleur said the committee will work with other student groups to host events such as petitions and letter-writing campaigns aimed at Louisiana state leadership.

She said through these and the combined efforts throughout the state, she hopes to see a positive change.

“Hopefully soon we will see some sort of change that values the investment and the need of improving our state’s higher education system. Other schools and communities throughout our state are working toward these same goals,” LaFleur said. “Through this committee, I hope we are able to raise support in the Tech community in order to make a greater stand for higher education at the next unified student event whether that be a rally or march later this school year.”

E-maill comments to keb029@latech.edu.