College Democrats protest cuts in university funding

The protest aimed to raise awareness of how cuts were affecting students.

Gathered together and holding signs, members of the MU College Democrats took to Speakers Circle on Friday to protest recent cuts in state funding for public colleges and universities.

In June, Gov. Jay Nixon announced he cuts of $20 million from Access Missouri grants as a way to make up the amount of money the state lost over the past year. The $20 million cut from grants, combined with a decrease in funding for higher education, was a main reason some members of the College Democrats took part in the protest.

College Democrats Philanthropy Director Mike Madden said participating in the protest was a way to show how cuts in funding were affecting students.

“The reason I’m here is because I’m completely tired of this uncertainty,” he said. “I might not be here next year, or even next semester. I just don’t know what is going to happen. Last summer I worked two jobs just to be able to make it this year. And I still need them (the scholarships). I really, really do.”

But scholarships, like the ones Madden relies on to help pay for school, keep disappearing and according to State Budget Director Linda Luebbering, the money for scholarships is not likely to return any time soon.

“At the start of the 2012 school year, funding will likely decrease and tuition will likely increase (for colleges and universities),” Luebbering said. “The increase in cut funding and higher tuition is driven by the reality of our financial situation. For this upcoming fiscal year we are losing $900 million in federal funding.”

While the future of financial assistance from the government looks bleak to members of the College Democrats, Political Director Tommy Palmer and Communications Director Tyler Ricketts said they believe students can take steps to make their voices heard.

“In the short term, make your congressperson know about how you feel,” Ricketts said. “Because if they get enough people who realize that we’re pissed off about this, then they are more likely to pay attention next time.”

Rather than immediate action, Palmer said he believes students can make some changes to prevent this from happening in the future.

“It is just kind of a shame because there is nothing we can do at this point,” Palmer said. “Until we utilize our voting power and we make it clear to them that they can’t do this to us, they are not going to pay any attention to us. The easiest thing for us to do, long-term, is vote.”

For Palmer, voting is the one action every student on campus can take.

“It is really about us utilizing our collective strength of being active and young and energized, whereas right now we don’t,” Palmer said. “I think that more than anything, as young voters, we shouldn’t be caught up in the struggle between left and right, red and blue and all of that. We need to realize that there are ways we can talk to each other.”

Members of the College Democrats said the decrease in financial assistance affects every student on campus, and Madden said he is no exception.

“I don’t want to be in debt for the rest of my life,” Madden said. “I really don’t.”

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