By Lindsay Hedgecock
Lansing Star staff reporter
Hundreds of students from universities across the state gathered Thursday at Michigan’s Capitol to rally against Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed 15 percent higher education cut. The cuts to higher education would increase tuition state-wide.
The rally was organized by the Student Association of Michigan or SAM, an advocacy group for Michigan’s students of higher education.
“If Michigan invests in its students, the students can return the investment,” said Keely Czartorski, member of student senate at Wayne State University and member of the Legislative Research Committee at SAM. “So, we need to have a system that implements higher education so we can get better jobs and a better standard of living, which will improve our state.”
Cardi DeMonaco, SAM president, led the march of students from the Lansing Center to the steps outside the Capitol. DeMonaco gave the first of several speeches that included university students, Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, Rep. Joan Bauer, Lansing Mayor Virg Benero and others.
Michigan ranks in the bottom 10 for state funding to higher education. According to statistics from SAM, in 2011 Michigan spent more money on corrections with a 0.6 percent increase, than higher education, with a cut by 18.1 percent.
“We don’t want the education cut to go through,” DeMonaco said. “We’re trying to get a little attention about higher education because tuition is getting out of control. It’s too much money to go to college in Michigan.”
Students from Michigan’s 15 public universities gathered to let Snyder and government officials know that they disapprove of the cuts.
“I don’t like it, the policy will not only affect other fellow students that are in the same financial state that I’m in but teachers’ wages as well,” said Garret Schuelke, WMU senior who is scheduled to graduate in the fall. “This policy will overall affect university life.”
Several students have had to find work while attending school to pay tuition bills that are escalating each year.
“Because I’ve had to go back to work more, I haven’t been able to take a consistent class schedule,” said Chad Guerrant, a Lansing Community College student and volunteer. “I feel like [work] is interfering with my education because instead of scheduling it around my classes — I’ve had to schedule classes around work.”
After two hours of rallying outside the Capitol, the rally moved inside where the House was in session.
Once inside, protesters were supposed to quietly enter the House Gallery and be introduced. But because the commotion inside was so disruptive, the House Gallery was closed and protesters were denied access.
Denied introductions to the legislators, students continued to chant in the rotunda.