“Tell Rendell to give a hoot about Temple,” became the battle cry heard at the Bell Tower yesterday morning, when Temple students joined forces with students from Penn State University to rally for increased financial aid from Harrisburg.
“We want as many students as possible to understand what’s going on and to care about it,” said Temple Student Government President Nadine Mompremier, adding that parents and students need to ask questions and demand answers.
Earlier this month, Gov. Ed Rendell’s proposed budget included the Pennsylvania Tuition Relief Act. The act would give students at state and community colleges up to $7,600 in new financial aid if their families earn less than $100,000 a year.
Four schools — Temple, Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University — were excluded from this plan because they are state-related and not considered part of the state system.
Students from Penn State and Temple gathered around the Bell Tower to protest their exclusion from the act. TSG organized the rally when Penn State’s student government President Gavin Keirans contacted Mompremier. Mompremier, a senior business and law major, said she did not understand fully what was happening before Kierans contacted her.
“I really hadn’t heard much myself, and I try to pay attention to what’s going on in the news,” she said. “But it just wasn’t promoted enough in southeast Pennsylvania.”
It was not heavily promoted near Philadelphia because none of the schools in the Philadelphia area qualify for the tuition relief. Mompremier and other members of TSG at the rally said they agreed it is a problem.
“We all want to be able to go to college,” Mompremier said. “But if we can’t afford the schools around here, it’s forcing students to go away to school.”
While their focus was not on the Philadelphia area, Penn State students said they agreed this is a problem for all Pennsylvania students.
Roughly 40 students filed into a bright blue bus and made their way from Penn State, almost 200 miles away, to join Temple students in protest.
Richard Shermanski, a senior political science major from Penn State, said with the major schools in Pennsylvania are becoming less affordable. More people are not only leaving the southeastern portion of Pennsylvania, but leaving the state altogether to attend college.
“We’re cutting back on the future of Pennsylvania,” Shermanski said. “It’s not fair, and it’s time this changed.”
Mompremier said in preparation for the rally, TSG contacted various Temple organizations in hopes that they would show up in support.
“The administration has been really supportive in standing behind us on this,” she said.
Ray Betzner, assistant vice president for university communications, said the administration wants Temple students to understand what was going on and get involved.
Monday’s rally was included in the Temple Today announcements. The university will work with TSG at its meetings.
Vice President of External Affairs Nexus Cook, a senior psychology major, passed around one of many petitions at the rally.
“This rally is really to bring awareness to the students. We want to get as many of the students involved as we can,” Cook said, adding that 83 percent of Temple students’ families make less than $100,000 a year, so the majority would qualify for the tuition relief. “For us to be excluded is ridiculous.”
Several students approached the rally organizers to ask if they could help and picked up their own petitions to collect signatures and e-mail addresses.
Many students said they were uninformed prior to the rally and that they felt everyone needed to know what was going on so they could take action.
Sophomore political science major Nicole Boccelli signed a petition on her way to class after listening to one of Mompremier’s speeches.
“Everyone’s so enthusiastic, as they should be,” she said. “We deserve the same financial aid as everyone else.”
Colleen Mills, an undeclared freshman, said she also thought Temple should be included.
“We want the city and the state to know we’re passionate about this, and we won’t go unheard,” Mompremier said.
Penn State and Temple students will continue to work together to push for the state-related schools to be included in the Tuition Relief Act.
Keirans, a junior business management major, called for solidarity among the state-related schools. He said he would like to get the University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University involved as well.
“We were more than happy to come here for the day because this is a cause we believe in,” said Keirans, a Philadelphia native, adding that it’s not about the schools but about the students and what they can do.
Temple College Democrats President Elizabeth Hanson also spoke at the rally.
“We’ve already proven that we can change the world and that young people can change the world,” she said. “And we will change this.”
Valerie Rubinsky can be reached at email@example.com.