Utah student body presidents work together to revamp higher education

Posted Thursday, November 20, 2008 - 2:48pm

Utah student body presidents have been working together to create a platform that will be presented to the Utah State Legislature in January. Tuition is a growing problem throughout the state of Utah. Students know that it will rise and have been working together to help allocate this rise as well as suggesting how to lower tuition at the same time. Utah State University's tuition has been projected to increase an estimated 48 percent over the next three years.

"Instead of just directly saying we want lower tuition, we are giving them suggestions on how they can lower tuition," stated Dan Wood, ASCEU president.

First draft of the Utah Student Association Platform stated, "An agreement must be reached between the legislature, the Board of Regents, and the Students of Utah Students of Higher Education (USHE) in regards to tuition. Due to the lack of funding for higher education from the state's general funds, students are continuing to make up the cost.

"Tuition has risen drastically over the past five years and we are informed that it will continue to increase due to necessary budget demands."

According to Wood tuition is liable to increase but we want to minimize it as much as possible so school can be affordable to students, especially the middle class.

"Lower-class people can typically get financial aid but only if they qualify and people who are wealthy are able to pay for their school without worrying.

"Middle class depend on scholarships primarily and low tuition in order to pay for their education. A typical Utah family is large, that is really detrimental to our community because a lot of times families will have more than one student in college at a time," Wood said.

Originally the platform in plank one indicated a tuition compact, where they asked for more thorough and effective career and student advising to help students better understand the real job market. It also helps students choose correct career paths, assurance of quality professors, effective programs and competitive education preparing students for the market place with up-to-date skills and application.

Plank two stated we must have access to more state-funded financial aid in order to help ensure that the students who are most in need of education are not priced out of Utah's higher education institutions. Utah gives comparably low financial aid. This limits access to education for low income and minority students. Providing this aid is a state responsibility. Utah will ultimately avoid the greater costs of other social programs by providing assistance for higher education now.

Plank three asked for more community and public interest. It stated that many legislators find it difficult to put more funding on higher education because the community does not place it as a top priority. That higher education should be a priority because a well-educated society leads to economic growth. As a result, this will give legislators the freedom to give higher education the support it needs and help the growth of the economy.

In a meeting held to review the platform on August 20, 2004 at UVSC, it was decided that the planks needed to be revamped to touch on more specific issues. They needed more numbers and facts on why the legislature and community should support these issues.

USP has met since then and has changed the platform to focus more on faculty and staff compensation, occupation and maintenance and asking for financial aid federally instead of state wide.

"Right now some of the money that compensates faculty and staff comes out of student fees and by asking the state to fund faculty and staff compensation, it would lower tuition for the students.

"With occupations and maintenance building budgets, we are trying to get more money from the state with buildings that are constructed.

"There is no increased funding from the state as tuition is increased. They are not paying any more money to help higher education. It's a real issue for us and we are just trying to find more ways to get money.

"It's really important in our lobbying effort to have the community on our side. A lot of people don't understand exactly what is going on, that our tuition is increasing, how much is going to affect students, I think if the community is informed and we can rally the community, business people, and special interest groups that they would support our lobbying effort.

"It's kind of like a circle where everyone helps each other. I don't know that it has ever been done before. These are our goals and what we would like from the legislature as students of the state of Utah, we are finally taking a stand and I think in the past it has been unclear.

"Letting people know what we really need as students is the key to improving Utah's higher education," Wood stated.

The Utah Student Association Platform will be revised again Nov. 16 at BYU. The platform is open to the public for discussion, proposals

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