Hundreds of students gathered on the Capitol steps in Salem Thursday, asking Oregon’s legislators to increase funding for higher education. In what was said to be Oregon’s largest rally for post-secondary education since 1999, students talked about how tuition hikes and campus budget cuts affected them.
Hundreds of students gathered on the Capitol steps in Salem Thursday, asking Oregon’s legislators to increase funding for higher education.
In what was said to be Oregon’s largest rally for post-secondary education since 1999, students talked about how tuition hikes and campus budget cuts affected them. Speakers also included professors, university staff, state legislators and Governor Ted Kulongoski.
Western Oregon University student Key Jackson discussed how an inability to pay tuition had affected her education.
“When I first started at WOU, I received the Oregon Opportunity Grant. It was not enough to pay for college and I was forced to drop out of school and go to work full time,” said Key. “I later re-enrolled at Western, but with the new jobs I had taken on, I was no longer eligible to receive the Oregon Opportunity Grant.”
Kulongoski affirmed his support for the Oregon Opportunity Grant at Thursday’s rally. Kulongoski said he hopes to expand the grant for the 2007-09 biennium with a proposal called the Shared Responsibility Model. His proposal was entered into committee two weeks ago.
“I gave testimony last week in front of the [legislative] committee that there is nothing, nothing in the long-term interest that is more important than the passage of the Shared Responsibility program,” Kulongoski said. “This program will define Oregon…it will tell the people of this state that we are making an investment in the future and you are that future.”
Students responded with wild cheering, chanting Kulongoski’s name and yelling, “Teddy K, we say hey, education starts today.”
Dean Braa, a sociology professor from WOU, told the crowd that Oregon’s universities were suffering “brain drain.”
“We cannot keep good, young, quality faculty in this state…[at WOU] we lost three, maybe four, of our most promising young faculty because they can make a hell of a lot more money just about anywhere,” Braa said.
Braa said that professors were worried about Oregon students’ ability to pay for college.
“We fear that slowly but surely we’re pricing you out of an education,” Braa said. “And the debt that you accrue is disgusting.”
The Oregon Students Association advocated for four primary issues in Salem this Thursday. First is the passage of the governor’s current proposed budget, which would increase university funding statewide. Other issues include passing Kulongoski’s Shared Responsibility Model, the expansion of the ASPIRE mentoring program, and tuition equity-a bill which would allow undocumented immigrants who graduate from Oregon high schools to pay in-state tuition.
Courtney Sproule, the communications director for the Oregon Students Association, said that if students were having trouble paying for college they should contact their representatives.
“You can talk to your senators and your representatives and tell them how this will affect you,” Sproule said. “If you’re working a few jobs right now and still can’t barely afford your rent and your tuition, and you’re going to graduate with debt, tell them that you need this chance, this opportunity.”