NAU students protest budget cuts to higher education
NAU students gathered outside of the Union today to protest the proposed budget cuts to three Arizona state universities.
The proposed cuts would decrease the amount of state aid to all three universities by $235 million. NAU would lose $36 million as a result of this cut.
Kate Murphy, a member of the Associated Students of Arizona (ASA) at NAU, said their protest was about unity.
“The overall goal of this rally is to empower students,” Murphy said. “All of the things that happened with the budget cuts happened over spring break, so what we’re hoping to do is get students together so they understand what exactly is happening at the state legislature.”
Wes Enns, media coordinator for ASNAU, said the current budget cuts are similar to the ones the university faced two years — cuts ASA protested.
“I think they are very harsh and they should not be happening,” Enns said. “I think there are a lot better things that can be cut. Education is very important.”
Enns said if the cuts are approved, the university and its programs will be affected.
“[We] might have to cut whole departments — raise tuition, raise fees — every student might have to pay more than they are right now,” Enns said.
According to Murphy, the loss of $36 million could result in fewer classes offered, staff cut and a decline in overall education quality and financial aid.
One student at the rally has already felt these affects. Theresa Wallace, a junior and Jewelr and Metalsmithing major, said she was notified last year that her program would be discontinued.
“[They are] rushing us through and pushing us out [of the program],” Wallace said.
According to Wallace, some freshman in the program are being pressured to finish their degrees in two years.
“[It’s] unfair that we pay so much for tuition and we don’t get what we’re paying for in the end,” said Wallace.
Another student who said he could be affected by the cuts is Christian Allen, an ASA intern who has been working with higher education students, who was at the rally to show his support.
“I know for me, personally, money has already been tight with my family, so I can just imagine how other people are feeling with these budget cuts,” said Allen.
Both ASU and UA also held rallies on their campuses today in protest of the cuts. Enns said all three state universities ASA organizations are working together on this issue.
“Being able to rally on the central points of campuses and talking to each and coordinating exactly what we are trying to talk about,” Enns said.
ASA NAU was hoping for around three hundred students to show up at the rally. There were about fifty students in attendance.
Allen said he believes the rally will make a difference.
“I think that we’re going to get publicity for it and when the bill that they passed in the Senate goes through the House [of Representatives], I think it’s going to raise awareness,” Allen said.
“I think it’s a great thing for us to be doing,” Murphy said. “I think it’s important for students to know what is happening to their university, that they attend, that they pay for, and I really hope that this rally helps empower students.”
Wallace, however, said she thought the slogans of the rally would not be heard by the state legislature.
“I don’t feel like the politicians who are responsible for this pay attention to what we think about it,” Wallace said.
Enns also said it is possible ASA and students could protest at the state capitol.
The state Senate has already approved the budget cuts — the cuts go before the state House of Representatives tomorrow.
Plans for future protest depend on what the House decides tomorrow. Students will be informed about the protest beforehand so that they may participate.
“We do have a voice, and we are going to come together and fight these cuts,” Murphy said.