Annelise Catanzaro, Student Government Association (SGA) executive president, met on Thursday with Gov. Jon S. Corzine and members of his staff to share student concerns about Corzine’s proposed $169 million cuts to higher education.
Catanzaro said that Corzine seemed responsive to student concerns and that he told the representatives in attendance that if legislators find savings in other areas of the budget, he wants to put the money toward higher education first, a statement he has expressed on several occasions.
On March 21, Corzine proposed a state budget that would cut the College’s base appropriation by $4 million, or more than 10 percent. The proposed budget would not fund salary program increases and would phase out state funding for the Outstanding Scholar Recruitment Program.
College President R. Barbara Gitenstein has said that the “drastic cuts” could have a “devastating impact” on the College.
Members of the governor’s staff in attendance included Jane Oates, executive director of the Commission on Higher Education, and Heather Howard, general public policy advisor, Catanzaro said.
Student representatives from public and private institutions and county colleges attended the meeting at the governor’s mansion, Drumthwacket, in Princeton.
“The meeting was a great chance to voice our concerns about the budget and also network with other student leaders,” Catanzaro said.
“The governor said that he would like to have another meeting before the end of the academic year to follow up with concerns raised by students, and discuss in further detail the idea of a committee of students on higher education,” she said.
SGA has also begun a postcard-writing advocacy campaign.
Catanzaro said that SGA members collected student signatures at April Fest, “Mystique” and Accepted Students Day to send to the state legislature to lobby for increased funding to higher education, she said. SGA members plan to solicit further student support in the coming days, she said.
SGA will send an e-mail to the campus at large requesting its support in an additional letter and e-mail-writing campaign to lobby the state legislature for the restoration of funding to higher education, Catanzaro said.
Other organizations, including the Music Educator’s National Conference and All College Theatre, have contacted Catanzaro about helping with the advocacy efforts, she said, noting that the budget cuts particularly affect those student in the School of Art, Media and Music. The proposal opts to phase out the Governor’s School of the Arts, a summer program for students talented in music, art and drama to learn and perform at conferences held on campuses around the state, including at the College.
Catanzaro said that student organizations and individuals that want to help lobby for more funding should contact SGA at firstname.lastname@example.org so that the organization can keep track of and best support advocacy efforts.