Students Show Support for Higher Ed

NMU students are mobilizing in various ways to promote increased state support for higher education. They are also rallying against legislative proposals that would impact aid programs at all Michigan universities and target two schools NMU and Wayne State for significant cuts in appropriations.


Former ASNMU president Rebecca Thompson spoke in advance of a June 21 rally in Lansing organized by the K-16 Coalition for Michigan 's Future (pictured). She was serving in her new capacity as president of the Association of Michigan Universities, the student government organization representing about 300,000 students attending the state's public institutions.


"It was a surreal experience," Thompson said, reflecting on the experience. "The huge turnout shows that people are serious about the necessity for adequate funding and that we will make our voices heard. I encourage others to do the same by writing their legislators and the governor."


A crowd of more than 11,000 reportedly double what organizers anticipated marched to the Capitol to deliver the loud and clear message that the state must put "education first" and back that position by investing appropriately.


"I have witnessed first-hand the struggles that our universities have been confronted with since entering college just over four years ago," said Thompson, in her speech to rally participants. "During this time, nearly $300 million less is being spent to educate a growing number of students at our universities. This equates to nearly $1,100 less being spent on each student.

"What this really means is fewer programs, fewer course offerings, increased class sizes, and reduced services for students, among other negative implications. The most recently proposed higher education budget continues a very troubling trend as the state continues to disinvest in higher education. Our ability to grow out of this economic downturn and prosper in the future depends on an educated and viable workforce."


Another NMU student, Jenna Briggs of Bay City, has cultivated a grassroots effort called U.P. Students United. The group's motivation extends beyond proposed cuts to NMU. It is trying to project a unified voice against reduced funding for financial aid programs that impact all colleges and universities particularly those like NMU that enroll many need-based students. The programs in potential jeopardy are work study, the part-time independent student program and Michigan Educational Opportunity Grants.


"The best way to get our message out is to have a physical presence in Lansing," Briggs wrote on the Web site for U.P. Students United. "That's why (we) are organizing a bus trip to Lansing for sometime in late August or early September. We will take a charter bus there, protest at the capitol, and get a chance to speak with some representatives."


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Updated: October 26, 2005

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