As they did last year, state-related students from across the commonwealth rallied in Harrisburg for higher education funding.
Students and Temple Student Government officers gathered in the state Capitol building yesterday, Jan. 31, to address state legislators on behalf of the four state-related universities.
Temple, Penn State, Lincoln University and the University of Pittsburgh assembled on the steps of the Main Rotunda at noon for a series of speeches and performances, advocating for higher education funding from the commonwealth before Gov. Tom Corbett proposes his fiscal budget on Feb. 7.
“As of today, four out of five Temple students must work at least part-time to finance their educations,” TSG Student Body President Colin Saltry said. “That’s over 21,000 that work, study and pay taxes in Pennsylvania.”
Student representatives from Temple, Penn State, Lincoln and Pitt make up the Pennsylvania Association of State-related Students, or PASS. TSG Vice President of External Affairs Elliot Griffin is currently the PASS executive director. Griffin opened and closed the event.
“President [Barack] Obama delivered his State of the Union address last week, and during his speech…emphasized that the states need to do their part in making higher education a higher priority in their budgets,” Griffin said. “Governor Corbett, we’re all here today to tell you that he was speaking right to you.”
About 170 students from the universities attended the rally, according to representatives from Temple, Pitt and Lincoln. Temple students comprised 53 of the total attendance.
Each school had a student speaker, a student government president and at least one spoken word or singing performance. Along with Saltry, speakers from Temple were senior public communications major Malcolm Kenyatta, Alex McNeil, a senior social work and political science major, and Temple Gospel Ministries.
Students, like Rodney Brown from Penn State, shared their reasons for attending the state-related universities, as well as personal concerns about tuition increases as a result of cut funding.
“When you turn an educational system into a business, many student lose out,” Brown said. “We aren’t just a quota. We aren’t just a student ID number.”
Kenyatta, arguably the loudest speaker of the event, criticized legislators for not being in attendance at the event. He asked legislators not to “bet against our generation.”
“This is not a negotiation,” Kenyatta said.
A popular speaker was Mataio Nuualiitia, a sophomore biology major from Penn State, who demonstrated his beatboxing talents with the crowd.
Students in attendance left the capitol in good spirits.
“I thought it was awesome,” said sophomore Blake Miller, and elementary education major. Miller said he had never attended such an event before. “Not even close.”
“I know that the state has been dealing with budget cuts a lot, and so I thought last year I should get more involved and be more of what’s going on with my university as well as the state I live in, ” DeVaun Brown, a junior management information systems major, said.
Some said they would be willing to participate in a future rally if one is planned next year.
Students were unable to meet with legislators, who were in session at the time. The universities held a rally last year after the Governor’s Office proposed an initial 52 percent cut to higher education, a cut which was eventually reduced to about 19 percent.
Amelia Brust can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.