Thursday, February 10, 2011

Students Rally for UT Funding

Aziza Musa | Texas Tribune

Cries of "Texas fight" and "It's 8:45, and we're still underfunded" rang across a crowd of nearly 100 students, who marched to the Capitol this morning to rally for adequate funding for the University of Texas at Austin.

The Senate Finance Committee, led by Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, took up the matter of the UT System's finances and funding this morning, and public testimony is expected in the afternoon. The Senate's proposed budget for the 2012-13 biennium cut financial aid programs by $381 million and state and federal funds to the university by $87.9 million, according to a press release sent by a coalition of UT student organizations known as Invest in Texas. The group is lobbying today for adequate funding, the protection of financial aid programs and the maintenance of the university's tier-one status.

Jimmy Talarico, Student Government executive director and director of Invest in Texas, said the coalition is trying to create a commotion so legislators can have a better idea of the decisions they will soon make.

"After the budget conversations on campus, after we’ve seen entire programs close down, we realized there was sort of an urgency that required more significant coordination," Talarico said. "We know that students at our university can’t just be people standing in line demanding more state assistance. We have to give a sales pitch about why the state funding is not an expenditure, but an investment."

Student Government Vice President Muneezeh Kabir, who is scheduled to testify this afternoon, said students are not apathetic, and that they know the university's budget is in danger.

"I want to tell the committee about how this year, I have to cut essential services and actually put prices on things that were once free before, like mental health care — at a time when college suicides are at an all time high," Kabir said. "Honestly, we’re not necessarily asking for more funding, but sometimes if you shoot a little higher, you might just get what you want."

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