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Connecticut State University Students Rally for $140M

by Megan Merrigan | Apr 22, 2013 4:25pm
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Posted to: Education, State Capitol

Megan Merrigan photo

Students and professors rally at state Capitol

Students from Connecticut’s four state universities and 12 community colleges made their way to the state Capitol Monday to rally in favor of increased funding for higher education.

In addition to a reduction of $49.4 million in state funding for higher education since 2010, students will face proposed tuition hikes reaching 5.2 percent for community colleges, 5.1 percent for in-state commuter students and 4.1 percent for in-state and out-of-state residential students at state universities.

With funding decreasing and tuition increasing students like Robert Jangro from Quinebaug Valley Community College fear they will be paying more for fewer services.

“I don’t have a problem with paying more in tuition,” Jangro said. “As long as I get the same services I’ve been getting when I was paying less.”  One of those services getting cut is the schools’ tutoring center, which is now being run by volunteers.

“Our tutoring center no longer has any full-time staff, which, the tutoring center, is something that many of our students require in order to be able to properly learn the lessons they need to learn,” he said.

The students spent the past month rallying across the state and requesting that $140 million for higher education be added to the state’s budget over the next two years.

“You see their advocacy has made a difference,” Higher Education Committee Chair Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said.  “We put more money in.”

The Appropriations Committee revised the budget to retain $5.7 million to fill vacant faculty positions, at least 10 percent of which must be used to hire additional counselors.

The committee has also added an additional $1 million for more academic counselors and $2 million for remediation programs.

There has been no movement to eliminate the tuition increases, but the additional money does give students more resources, according to Bye. “It adds faculty, it added money for financial aid, it added money for students who need help in that first year so they won’t use their Pell and their loans,” Bye said.

Bye said that she encourages the student’s effort and urges them to keep going.

But the students aren’t the only ones upset with recent changes to the university system.

A dozen professors from Southern, Western, Eastern and Central Connecticut State Universities who have been honored and recognized as “CSU Professors,” which is the highest title they can receive as faculty members, are hoping their voices are the next to be heard.

In two separate letters addressed to “Colleagues, Regents, and Other Supporters of the State Universities,” the professors express concern that they are being “downgraded” from research universities to strictly teaching universities as a result of the budget and governing board merger between the state universities and community colleges in 2011.

“The implication is that our research is of no more importance than that of the community colleges, which don’t have explicit research missions,” the first letter reads.

The second letter, which was sent earlier this month, asks, in bolded font, for “a return to self governance.”

“We were being downgraded in that process, while at the same time it appeared that the University of Connecticut was being upgraded,” James Russell, a professor at Eastern Connecticut State University said at Monday’s rally in regards to the nearly $1.5 billion initiative between the state and UConn to expand research and education opportunities for the school’s science, technology, engineering and math programs.

“If the state of Connecticut gave CSU students the same support it gives UConn students, we wouldn’t have to have this demonstration today,” Russell said.

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