When Gov. Dennis Daugaard presented his budget in January for fiscal year 2012, he proposed cutting at least 10 percent from each state-funded program, including education.
That leaves the University of South Dakotas budget an estimated $4.9 million short a difference that may be
made up with a tuition increase.
To express their opposition to the governors proposal, a group of roughly 30 students staged a Cut Class for Budget Cuts rally on the lawn of the Muenster University Center over the noon hour Monday.
The students later brought their case directly to state legislators in Pierre Tuesday.
This is kind of our way of sending a collective letter to our senators, said rally organizer and USD junior Thomas Emanuel. I hope that this provides a kind of bargaining chip for when our lobbyists go up to Pierre. Its always good to say, We came up here because were really dedicated, but look at these people who got involved on campus. It says that we, as students, are really against these budget cuts and are involved.
Among those who became involved was 21-year-old freshman Kela Hansen, who is concerned over whether shell be able to afford to continue her education.
Im paying my own way through college, and work two jobs, she said.
In a January interview with the Press & Dakotan, USD president James Abbott was among those who expressed concern over the loss of education funding.
There is no question this will be very difficult for us, especially since USD, like all the regental institutions, took cuts for the last three years, as well, Abbott said. The total cut proposed for USD and the USD Medical School is just under $5 million. To put that in perspective, the entire budget for the law school operating budget salaries, pens, that kind of expense is about $3.4 million.
He added that the cuts would leave the university few options.
This is going to be tough, Abbott said. If the cut is of this magnitude, it will be very hard to avoid a significant tuition increase.
To help promote Mondays rally, Hansen established a Facebook page just to try to get as many people involved as possible to draw attention to the issue.
One little person may not make a difference, but the more and more you get going in, thats what really helps, she said.
The cause drew the attention of students and faculty alike, organizers said.
Ive had a lot of individuals express interest, Emanuel said. A number of professors have actually expressed either interest or said they might be here.
Hansen added, I work for a bank, and one of my professors is actually a board member at the bank, and he strongly pushes us to take a stand for what we believe in. Because we are the future. Were going to be the ones 20 years from now who are going to be running the government, and whatever impact we can make on it now to make it better in the future is what we can do.
Also lending his support to the cause was Tim Carr, president of the campus Student Government Association.
He told student government about it and was spreading the word, Emanuel said. Weve had support from the highest members of SGA.
Support from these groups and individuals are among the points a delegation of approximately 30 students will present to the Clay County legislators.
The group planned to meet with the senators and representatives at two separate meetings, to be held at 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. respectively.
Its more or less for people who feel (the legislators) need to be made aware that cutting education is probably the worst thing they could be doing with the budget, Hansen said.
She added that she hopes the meetings can be effective in reaching this goal.
It affects everybody, she said.
P&D reporter Shauna Marlette contributed to this report.