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Campus Conservatives Mixed Over Funding Cuts

By Whitney Roper, Contributing Writer

As hundreds to students converged in Harrisburg today to protest proposed cuts to higher education funding, PoliticsPA decided to check in with some of the students who weren’t on hand for the rallies: college Republicans. We talked with a few campus conservatives across PA, and found that those attending state-supported colleges had mixed feelings about the Governor’s budget.

Today's rally in Harrisburg. Photo credit: John Micek, Allentown Morning Call

Great debate has been swirling around Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed budget cuts to higher education that will amount to a 50% cut to state funding for the 14 state-owned schools, along with the four state-affiliated schools. Community colleges face cuts of 10%.

Some officials say that the cuts are ‘backbreaking.’ Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenburg called the funding cuts, “Deep, disproportionate, and devastating.” But when students that will be directly affected by the cuts were asked how they felt about the proposed budget, some were more understanding than others.

“On one hand the cuts are dramatic, on the other, we do need to reduce the state budget,” Samuel Settle, a student at Penn State University, told PoliticsPA. “We brought this on ourselves. The university stems out tectonic amounts of money that have no clear benefit to the quality of education.”

Penn State’s budget will see a decrease from $334 million to $165 million.

Settle believes that the money that goes towards constant upgrades on PSU building aren’t always necessary and that students don’t want multimillion dollar construction projects. “We need to allocate our resources smartly.”

Settle is a member of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative group at PSU, but is not affiliated with the college’s young Republicans.

The University of Pittsburgh is also among the schools that will be subject to the cuts. Pitt funding will drop from $160.5 million to $80.2 million. The university receives less than 10% of its budget from the state compared to 30% in the mid-70s, according to the school’s official website.

“I’m fiscally pretty middle of the road, so I would have accepted a cut as necessary given the state’s budget situation. However, I think the drastic cuts were too severe, especially without any forewarning to the affected academic institutions,” Adam Szumski, a first year graduate student at Pitt explained.  Szumski, not directly affiliated with Pitt’s College Republicans, is a member of the Republican party.

Jared Sikorski, a student at Bloomsburg University and registered Republican,  shared his feelings about the cuts. Sikorski usually agrees with the Republican Party but worries that Gov. Corbett’s budget will be too detrimental to higher education and the students that want to obtain that 4 year degree might not be able to. “It’s scary. I’m worried because I only have one year left and I don’t want these last three years to all be for nothing. I understand that we all need to make sacrifices to lessen the state deficit and the education department needs to be looked at, but these cuts are taking away too much.”

Video from today’s rally:

H/T to John Micek of the Allentown Morning Call for this photo and video.

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