On Thursday, the Student Government Association (SGA) hosted a forum on the state budget and higher education. SGA members prepared a PowerPoint presentation and went step-by-step through the ways budget cuts from Trenton have hurt the College. The turnout was pretty impressive: There were about 75 people in attendance.
The student presentations were well done, but the most important segment of the night was the short talk by state assemblyman Reed Gusciora, who is also an adjunct professor at the College. He emphasized that “the legislature often listens to those who shout the loudest.” For example, he said the elderly often get the programs they want because they spend lots of time writing and calling their representatives.
Last year’s $169 million cut to higher education was obviously a huge blow to colleges throughout the state. College students statewide held protests. As for the College, there were letter-writing campaigns and a meeting with Gov. Jon S. Corzine by the SGA president, along with other protests.
This year, Corzine’s budget proposal throws $49 million more into higher education, and $1.6 million more to the College. But we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent. The College is certainly not out of the woods yet, and it won’t happen anytime soon either. We need to be just as aggressive, and even more so, toward the legislature and governor’s office than last year.
We’re just a stone’s throw away from the capital. Write and call your legislator. Write to the governor. Tell them to restore the Outstanding Scholar Recruitment Program and to make sure funding increases for higher education becomes a trend for years to come. Most importantly, tell them not to forget about this state’s future.
While there is no way to know for sure, there is a good chance that Corzine remembered the substantial opposition to last year’s budget by college students and administrators when he was formulating this year’s proposal. That led to a modest increase that may still not make up for the rise in mandatory costs.
When Corzine is setting up his next budget in February 2008, let’s make sure he remembers an even greater response from the higher education community.