Dozens rally outside Gov. Greitens’ mansion to call for higher education funding

MU students, high school students and adults marched from the capitol to the governor’s mansion, where they rallied and gave testimonies against proposed higher education budget cuts.
Protesters march during the Stop the Cuts rally in Jefferson City on March 10, 2018. Their signs featured serious and lighthearted slogans alike.

Around 30 community members marched from the state capitol to the governor’s mansion in Jefferson City on Saturday afternoon armed with signs and chants to rally against the higher education budget cuts proposed in the governor’s 2019 fiscal year recommended budget.

The rally was organized by the Stop the Cuts Coalition, a partnership of campus and community groups working to fight against the proposed cuts. Attendees included MU undergraduate and graduate students, working adults and local high school students.

The group began at the capitol, where MU Socialists President Joseph Moore spoke about the budget cuts and laid out the plan for the march.

“We are here today to tell Gov. Greitens and the GOP to stop taking money from Missouri’s colleges and universities to fund corporate welfare,” Moore said, “because that’s what this is. It’s corporate welfare.”

After years of tax cuts, Moore explained through a megaphone in front of the crowd, Missouri’s wealthiest 1 percent has benefited from lower taxes, while the state’s revenue base has taken a hit, as have institutions of higher education. He called for attention on further proposed tax cuts, which would put Missouri’s corporate tax rate at the second lowest nationally, as well as Senate Bill 912, which proposes a higher cap on tuition hikes, “shifting more of the financial burden of higher education onto the students.”

After rallying the crowd, he led them through a practice round of chants: “They say cut that, we say fight back.”

Angel Montie, a junior at Rock Bridge High School, was one of a handful of students and community members who gave testimonies once the crowd reached the mansion. Montie said he came out to speak because he can’t go to college since his family doesn’t have the money to take on the financial burden.

“I think I deserve higher education,” Montie said. “I think as a human being, I deserve to be an educated part of society, and I think everyone deserves to be educated. To people who are just scraping by, that $1,100 tuition increase a year could make or break their ability to even exist on a college campus. It’s awful … It’s the government just actively saying, ‘We don’t give a damn.’”

MU sophomore Emily Raney also spoke to the crowd, discussing her family’s experience with the cost of higher education. Her dad was taking his last graduate school finals at MU two weeks after Raney was born just over 20 years ago. Now, she said, her family is still paying off both his undergraduate and graduate student loans.

“For literally my entire life, the entire 20 years that I’ve been alive, they’re still paying off his student loans,” Raney said. “I think, for me, that paints a very bleak picture for what people’s futures are going to be if they have to spend literally a lifetime paying off student loans.”

Raney, who would like to go to graduate school herself one day to further her studies of anthropology and linguistics, said she fears MU will cut the program, which has been discussed recently.

“I am [planning to go to grad school],” Raney said, “but probably not Mizzou anymore, since they are cutting that program.”

Moore said he has personal experience with the effect of budget cuts as a graduate student. In response to what he refers to as “poverty wages” in recent years, Moore said graduate students organized, put pressure on the administration and eventually received higher stipends.

Last year’s budget cuts resulted in 474 jobs being cut from the UM System. Moore said the potential for more job cuts, as well as the recent non-tenure faculty whose contracts may not be renewed, will affect every student.

“When they eliminate 475 jobs, that doesn’t mean the work’s not there,” Moore said. “It just gets shifted onto other people, and students lose out because they have more crowded classrooms, they have fewer faculty grading their papers so it takes longer and less one-on-one attention from faculty.”

SCC is discussing other efforts to continue the fight for more state funding.

“There will be more to come,” Moore said.

Edited by Skyler Rossi |

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