Today was a pretty amazing day.
As promised, or maybe as threatened, I took a day of annual leave in order to accompany our students from across the state protesting higher education budget cuts.
I waved at a couple of people I recognized who work at the Board of Regents who watched part of our proceedings. Not sure if they recognized or even saw me or not, but I waved anyway.
I think there may have been a little more than the 150 that the Advocate said were there. But there weren’t thousands of students there, either. However, all the systems and most of the schools were represented.
Our students also seized the opportunity to testify before the Appropriations Committee.
I was honored and humbled that the students at my institution gave up one of their student slots for me to testify. I hope I lived up to their expectations. So if anyone wants to know who I am, go look at today’s proceedings and look for the lone sort-of-not-student who testified. I did talk about what drove me back to full-time work in higher ed–my having my assistantship canceled one semester before I was planning on finishing my dissertation, thanks to budget cuts. Needless to say I’m still not done because I once again work full-time in admissions. But really my doctoral candidacy was just the pretext qualifying me to sit at the table and then launch into an extremely brief overview of the impact of the GRAD Act linked state admission standards and why institutions just can’t enroll more students to generate more student-generated revenue even though the students are there for us to enroll. There are enough students for all of us. Not all of us can admit them, and even when we can–particularly the community colleges who are stretched as thin as anyone–we can’t serve them all.
We can’t afford any more cuts.
Not unless we want Mississippi and Arkansas to be educating our students.
Or worse, for our students to go no where.
As I exited the chamber, I was greeted by some fellow recruiters from another regional university who had also taken annual leave to join our students, and they thanked me for what I said. That really meant a lot to know that others in my profession are seeing the same things I do and feel just as strongly about how we are cutting higher ed from both the funding and the enrollment side.
I end this with what happened after I went home. When my day ceased being so amazing.
I was, of course, exhausted, and hadn’t really eaten anything all day. So instead of making dinner I treated myself at a Tex-Mex joint up the road from me.
As I placed my order, the cashier noticed my university lanyard and asked, “Are you on faculty at xxxxx?”
“No, I’m staff. I’m the director of admissions there.”
“I used to go there.”
I paused a moment, when the Professional Educator in me came out. “Oh, wow, ok. Did you finish?”
“No. I was one semester away from graduating but I couldn’t afford to come back anymore.”
“I’m so sorry. I know that tuition is tough to afford now. I hope that our state comes to its senses so that you can afford to come back. I hope you come back to finish.”
“I hope I can come back too.”
And this, my friends, was an IPEDS graduation rate failure. One that our state created because this student could no longer to afford to go to school. But one that looks like it is my institution’s fault.
And this was why I protested today, and why I testified today, and why I’m risking my career to do this.
Bobby Jindal, it’s your fault that the cashier I met today is still a cashier. Not mine and not my institution’s. YOURS.
And leges, it’s in your power to fix it. Or at least turn us back in the other direction away from the irreversible precipice that Louisiana public higher education is set to go over on July 1.