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Not for sale

I find it amusing how shocked our initial reaction to the budget cuts were last week. It’s no secret that legislatures dip their hand into the academic money jar whenever they need some easy cash. After all, the student body practically bleeds money from the moment we send our applications in. The only difference this time is that a few state senators got incredibly greedy, tried to grab more than usual, and got their hands caught in the jar.
And it’s only now that the senators realize that the jar is filled with angry spiders.
The thing to remember about the proposed budget cuts for the 2011 fiscal year is that it’s all politics. Senator Don Balfour, the Waffle House executive who claims that students don’t pay enough, is not an evil old man trying to cheat the lower social classes out of an education and turn the USG into the debtor’s prison Georgia once was. He’s just a politician. Granted, he’s standing on the wrong side of a major issue, which he will soon discover for himself during election season, but he’s a politician. Balfour is no different from the other senators who would rather cut academic budgets than propose raising taxes and thus commit political suicide.
We all know that there is nothing “embarrassingly cheap” about attending college. Hell, even Balfour knows that. Currently, tuition for a full time VSU undergraduate is $1,998 a semester, which would make a four-year degree cost $15,984 on tuition alone. If the proposed plan to increase tuition by 35% and add an extra $1,000 on top of that were to actually pass, then incoming Blazers on the four-year plan would have to spend $29,576. Incidentally, this amount would appear embarrassingly cheap to the students of UGA, who would have to pay $89,320 for a Bachelor’s degree.
As every student is very much aware, these amounts don’t even include the cost of student fees, books, and housing. Not to mention that everything in this country, from a can of Coke to a gallon of gas, is extremely expensive, especially in an economy that’s coughing up blood on a daily basis.
Not that you needed any more incentive to write to your representatives, but there you go.
If you really want to be mad at a senator for being a terrible human being, I suggest you pick on Senator Seth Harp. So desperate for academic money, he has actually been reported saying “If you have to close some schools, that is not off the table.” Now that level of ignorance in time of a recession and job crisis is worth some angry letters.
The important thing during these times of protest is focus, Blazers. Let your emotions fuel your actions, but don’t let them blind you. Balfour and Harp are just two pieces on a big political playing board. Legislatures were sizing up the USG the moment the budget crisis was revealed. Our school systems have been picked at for years, causing ridiculous furlough-day policies and downsizing. Chancellor Erroll B. Davis inadvertently called in the sharks when he announced that a 77% increase in tuition was deemed the worst-case scenario. An absurd amount like that gave the legislatures, the Board of Regents, and our administrations a lot of room for improvement. Compared to 77%, the proposed 35% budget cut seems like a Godsend.
There’s a better deal to be made, Blazers, so don’t let up. Each email and petition you sign has an impact on the budget-cut proposal. Even Balfour, after the backlash he received for his part in this issue, has sent out a copy/paste message to protesters saying that “if the economy forces colleges to raise tuition, it will be in the 10-15% range.” We’re talking about a possible 65% drop under the worst-case scenario. We might not be able to prevent a rise in tuition, but I have no doubt that the students of Georgia can drop the tuition increase back into single digits.
Remember, you are not just protesting for yourselves, but for every student in Georgia, including the students who will come after you. We put our future in the hands of the universities we attend, so sign in and remind the senators that it’s not theirs to sell.

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