Student coalition fights back against education cuts

ASU students are organizing to limit tuition increases and the damage to school services that state budget cuts could have on the University.

The Undergraduate Student Government on the Tempe campus is sponsoring a new coalition called ASU Against Cuts to Education, or ACE.

The coalition was created over the last two weeks for students to have a recognizable and accessible outlet to talk to state legislators, ASU administration and the Arizona Board of Regents about how the cuts would prevent some students from going to school and damage the quality of education, said Michael Wong the Vice President of Policy for the Undergraduate Student Government on the Tempe campus.

Because of Arizona’s budget deficit, huge cuts to higher education are impossible to avoid, Wong said.

The impact of these cuts could result in tuition increases of thousands of dollars, elimination or consolidation of academic programs, reduction of critical services like academic advising and substantial increases in class sizes, Wong said.

The goal of the coalition is to get students involved in protecting higher education as a long-term investment by getting students to speak to their legislators and by building support in the community, he said.

According to a September report from the state’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee, Arizona’s budget deficit is estimated to be about $825 million.

To balance the budget, cuts to state-funded programs are unavoidable.

When the state government must make cuts to education, the financial burden is transferred to students, said David Martinez III, government affairs director for the Arizona Students’ Association.

“Past trends have shown when the university budgets are cut, student services are the first to be cut,” Martinez said.

The Arizona Students’ Association works with USG and all the other universities to represent student interests on the state level.

Psychology freshman Adelaide Dale said the coalition does not have a formal structure because it is part of a short-term movement.

She said she got involved in the coalition because the budget cuts could have a huge impact on her personally.

“It’s possible that I could go somewhere else if                                          tuition costs increase,” Dale said.

She said her personal responsibility as a member was to contact business leaders in the community through chambers of commerce and rotary clubs and inform them about the cuts to education and how it could hurt the future of Arizona’s students by making ASU less competitive.

When there are fewer faculty members because of the consolidation of cutbacks, students receive less guidance and their quality of education decreases making the University less competitive, Wong said.

Jaclyn Weeman, a political science sophomore and USG member, said she wants to fight to keep tuition costs low enough so students can stay in school.

“We are prepared for a long fight, especially after the budget is released in mid-January,” Weeman said in an e-mail.

The first official kick-off   meeting for ASU Against Cuts in Education will be held Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the Business Administration C Wing, room 216. Previous meetings have been informal planning meetings, Wong said.

The meeting will be an opportunity for students to get involved in educating their legislators, fellow students and the community about the impact budget cuts could have on education, Wong said.

Students can get information on how to write letters and meet with their legislators to fight for all the funding the University can possibly receive, he said

“If the [funding cuts] were to go through, the well being of the state would be placed at risk,” Wong said.

The state depends on the university system to produce a well-qualified and diversified workforce that can improve state resources by improving the production of local business and in turn state revenue, Wong said.

Reach the reporter at maryshinn@asu.edu