Hey, CSCU Board of Regents: Enough is enough!

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The courtyard at Manchester Community College.

As a community college student, I feel incredibly blessed to go to a good school, get a great education, and not have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars over four years.

Let it also be known that I’ll never criticize someone for going to a private college and paying that kind of money. Everyone is entitled to apply to and accept admission to whatever school they choose to attend. As far as I’m concerned, not a single school is better than another as far as the quality of education goes, especially in Connecticut.

I came into Manchester Community College in the spring of 2014 after not being able to continue at another state’s flagship research university due to a lack of money. I’ve set a personal rule that I will not take out student loans so that I don’t have to deal with the debt later on in my life, and I am personally pleased to attend an institution that tries hard to provide financial aid to its students instead of encouraging students to take out loans. I also don’t qualify for substantial financial aid that would cover the majority of my tuition anywhere.

I feel that I belong to a very lucky group of people who seized their second chance at a good education. But when I see the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education raise our tuition, it makes me stop and ask, “I beg your pardon?

Over the course of my time at MCC, I’ve learned a lot more about peoples’ financial situations in a general sense. There are people that are in community college solely on student loans, financial aid and scholarships because they don’t have the money to afford it themselves, no matter how hard they work at a job to earn the money. Some people have had to take an entire year off to pay for the next year or more of total tuition.

Money is not easy to come by in this economy, and especially in this state. I feel that regardless of how hard students try to hit the BOR with these facts, they refuse to listen and continue to see us as walking ATMs. We are not people to be extorted. We are students who are trying to get a good education, and what we do with that education is our decision.

Time and time again, Connecticut State College and University students have gone to various government entities, including the legislature’s Appropriations Committee and the BOR, to say that a tuition increase would kill students’ futures, no matter how small or large.

The 4.8 percent increase approved for community college students earlier this year translates into about $200 per student, per semester. That can make or break a student’s ability to attend college another semester. That $200 can mean the difference between a bright, promising future for someone to do what he or she loves, and being stuck in a dead-end job living paycheck to paycheck.

Regardless of the $200 increase, the tuition is already high enough as it is. Close to $2,000 per semester, or $8,000 for an associate’s degree, is not affordable for a lot of people, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

And the reality is that not everyone will finish college in two years without doing summer courses. I have spent more than $10,000 on my tuition in total, and I may not be completely done this fall, which is when I expect to graduate.

Here’s what will drive students ballistic, though. In an editorial written by Three Rivers Community College professor Jon Brammer, published March 20 on ctmirror.org, dozens of faculty members received pink slips and long-time faculty members got demoted.

But the worst part? Four or five new “academic directors” (that’s code for empty administrative jobs designed to take office space and earn more than $100,000 per year for pushing papers) were hired, according to Brammer.

So how do these 14 regents not understand that when you cut a budget, fire helpful faculty, replace them with unnecessary administrators who don’t work with students, and raise tuition, you’re going to get an enrollment decrease and practically drive your system into the ground?

Students at MCC and many other Connecticut State Colleges and Universities are livid at how their tuition has increased and critically important programs, many of which are required to graduate, are being cut.

The actions of the BOR hurt, not help, higher education in Connecticut and it needs to be stopped.

Mike LaPorte is a student of general studies at Manchester Community College and a writer for its student newspaper, The Live Wire

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