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USU students fear budget ax will fall next on scholarships

December 9th, 2009 Posted in Opinion

By Cassidee Cline

LOGAN–Most students when they reach high school don’t think of anything besides graduation. When they reach their senior year, it’s all about sending n college applications and making sure they are on track to get that diploma while “Pomp and Circumstance” plays over the speakers.

But some students start thinking about college long before high school is in sight. The New Century Scholarship is geared towards students who want to get ahead in their career. It gives money to students who earn an associates degree before they graduate.

“The reason you do it is because you are kind of expecting to get something out of it,” Josue Carias, a major in finance and economics, said. Carias was one of the lucky recipients of the scholarship and uses it to pay for his on campus housing.

After budget cuts were made for fiscal year 2009, Carias said the scholarship board threatened to cut the New Century Scholarship for the 2009-2010 school year. “I thought it was kind of unfair,” he said. “In order to get the scholarship you have to go through high school and finish your first two years of college.”

The New Century Scholarship, Carias said, pays for about 75 percent of a student’s tuition. The scholarship board informed recipients that scholarships would be either cut down to 40 percent or taken away altogether. He said there were a lot of people lobbying during last summer and managed to get it back to 75 percent for one year, but next year they plan on cutting to 40 percent.

“When I was applying for scholarships there were a lot of them that were completely cut because [those giving scholarships] didn’t have enough money,” Carias said.

Statewide concerns >>
“The central administration of each university is concerned across the state,” said Spencer Lee, vice president of ASUSU (Associated Students of Utah State University). Lee said in 2008 the Utah Legislature cut $9 million from USU alone. Higher education overall in Utah received a $28 million cut. Utah State was able to pay for half of the $6 million that was cut at the beginning of 2008 with federal stimulus backfill money. The other $3 million was paid by the five-day faculty furlough, when faculty went unpaid for those days during Christmas break.

For fiscal year 2009, there was an addition $13 million cut that was also fixed by stimulus money, Lee said. The school won’t have that money to help if cuts are made next year.

Higher education–colleges and universities–is paid for 100 percent out of the state’s general fund, Lee said. The general fund comes from sales tax, but overall revenues are down due to the recession. He said since Utah requires, in the state constitution, that the legislature not spend more money than they have, they have to find a way to get the money.

The Utah Legislature has to make decisions on where to cut the money from, Lee said. Last year grades K-12 received a zero percent cut, meaning everyone else received a higher cut. The original plan was to cut 19 percent from higher education, but due to lobbying efforts last year, legislation only cut 17 percent of that budget.

Lee said on top of being executive vice president, he is also president of government relation’s council and is trying to boost efforts to lobby during next year’s legislative session. Each university, he said, has paid lobbyists, “but it’s much more effective if you can get hundreds and hundreds of people saying the same thing.”

It’s not only getting student’s involved, he said, it’s getting administrators and parents involved. “If we have a parent who says they are worried about their child’s education and they want to see something done about this,” Lee said. “They don’t want a person they voted into office ignoring their child’s needs.

“This is an important session for them to pay attention to what people want,” he said. Every representative in the House of Representatives is up for re-election this coming fall. The legislative session for next year is held from Jan. 25-March 11.

Lee said he spoke with USU provost Ray Coward who said USU would be looking at cutting another 50-60 faculty to deal with the $13 million cut received for fiscal year 2009. Lee said Coward talked about how all the programs and services that can be cut have been, the only thing left to cut is people.

Students are trying to push legislation to dip into the $450 million rainy day fund, Lee said, and also raise food and grocery taxes instead of cutting any more money from higher education.

There was a surplus in revenue from grocery tax, around $250 million, that was put into the rainy day fund and other capital investments, Lee said. Utah was in a comfortable financial time when the grocery tax was lowered, he said, but since the recession Lee said he thinks that tax should be raised.

“Even if we don’t get any additional cut,” Lee said, “we would still be looking at cutting another 50-60 faculty to deal with the money we have removed from our budget as USU that was covered last year by the stimulus package.”

International students worry too >>
Vaneet Lakhlani holds an elected position in the International Student Council and said he is has concerns about more money being cut. “We’ll be looking at next semester, during legislative session, at ways to increase our funds or maintain if not adversely decrease out funds.”

The International Student Council represents a little over 1,000 internatioal students on campus. Lakhlani said part of his job is to make USU a more attractive university for prospective student and a good living environment for current international students. “To do that we need funding which comes from the ASUSU. When budget cuts were affected our funding was affected directly,” he said. “We are getting less money compared to last year.”

Lakhlani said his office advises him not to discuss the details. Other administrative offices in the colleges on the USU campus also said they couldn’t discuss their financial situations for confidential reasons.

However, Lakhlani said the budget cuts have hindered flexibility on spending money and on where money can be spend. He said it has affected them, but not as significantly as he had thought. “It’s been a rough semester as far as activity organization is concerned, but because of good planning and collaboration with other student clubs and student government we have been able to maintain, if not increase, quality.”

Since the New Century Scholarship won’t be helping with his tuition as much as before, Carias said he might be moving back home. He said some budget cuts may be necessary, but too much could really start affecting the quality of education.

“Once you start cutting too much into the education system you are going to get some bad quality,” Carias said. “The education system is an investment they are making.” He said he agrees with the lobbying efforts of students since that’s how his scholarship was brought up to its full amount. “There’s going to be cuts either way, but it’s better to have a smaller cut than a larger cut.

“There will be budget cuts and there will be professors that are forced to leave, but we are still going to have a pretty good education. It’s just going to be a little more expensive.”


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