On Tuesday, Feb. 21, the Associated Students of PSU will hold a rally to protest the continued state budget cuts to higher education funding. The Public Education for Portland rally will bring together administration and students from Portland State and other Portland-based community colleges.
ASPSU President Adam Rahmlow explained the impetus for holding the rally, stating that “it is a response to the state defunding education for the second year in a row.”
Featured speakers at the rally will include PSU students, representatives from student government and other speakers from across the state. Those scheduled to talk include David Rogers, the director of the Partnership for Safety and Justice, and Nichole Maher, executive director of the Native American Youth and Family Center. Michael Sonnleitner, professor of political science at Portland Community College, will also speak at the rally regarding the benefits of an educated populace.
Student representatives from Portland area community colleges like Jacqueline Altamirano, student body president of Mt. Hood Community College, and Douglas Taylor, PCC Cascade Campus’s student body president, will also be in attendance.
Panels composed of students and administrators will discuss topics regarding higher education, including the benefits of higher education and issues of access. Portland State President Wim Wiewel is one of the confirmed panelists.
For the 2011–13 biennium, the state cut the Oregon University System budget by 14 percent. Trends have shown that state funding has fallen 9 percent over the last five years. PSU currently operates with only 20 percent of their budget coming from state funding.
When asked why ASPSU didn’t rally against this year’s hike in summer tuition rates, Rahmlow explained that the 9 percent raise to summer tuition was the cause of a budget instated last year. “We didn’t hold a rally last year because the budget had already been decided,” Rahmlow said.
“The rally isn’t targeting the administration,” said Anthony Stine, communications director for ASPSU. “We are trying to get students and community members together against state funding cuts that will raise tuition.”
The Oregon Legislature is currently examining educational funding. Proposed funding cuts to higher education include a potential reduction in allotments given to the Oregon Opportunity Grant program, which is the largest need-based grant in the state. A proposed minimum cut of 3.5 percent would mean a loss of more than 600 grants.
“That’s the same amount as all of the Oregon Opportunity Grants offered at Western Oregon University,” Stine said.
Additionally, as printed in the Tuesday issue of the Vanguard, [“PSU Day at the Capitol puts university issues front and center,” Feb. 14] the 2011–13 budget shows substantial gaps between other state systems and funding of higher education, such as that of the prison system versus higher education, which is a difference of more than $300 million.
ASPSU’s rally is part of a larger statewide effort to increase educational funding. While PSU students, faculty and staff from PSU and other Portland-based schools gather in the South Park Blocks, other people will simultaneously gather in Salem to protest the cuts.
Stine said that this rally has a specific goal in mind—the hope that “state legislators will rethink what they are doing.” The reduced funding for higher education, Stine said, “will harm the neediest Oregonians, and may prevent them from attending college.”