For Dominic Lajoie, a freshman apparel design major, the threat of the higher education crisis, characterized by mammoth funding cuts, is a scary thought that carries with it huge burdens â€“â€“Â and more than just bigger class sizes.
And at a student-government hosted rally on the Plaza to save higher education Wednesday, Lajoie gave an impassioned speech describing these burdens as a way get the crowd so loud, he said, as to attract the attention of lawmakers at the Capitol in Denver.
â€œI came out to the rally because itâ€™s a huge thing that I believe in, and I feel like everything you believe in you should fight for,â€ Lajoie told the Collegian at the rally that drew about 300 students. â€œAnd todayâ€™s rally signifies a unity, (that) Iâ€™m not the only student who is scared for the kind of budget cuts and tuition increases that weâ€™re about to face.â€
Lajoie is the son of a single mother who provides plenty of moral support, he said, but is financially unable to pay any part of his university expenses.
â€œShe doesnâ€™t help with tuition,â€ Lajoie said, â€œbut she sometimes helps with groceries.â€
Instead, Lajoie is paying for his tuition out of pocket.
Other than the money he saved for several years before coming to CSU while working at an American Eagle apparel store in Denver, he also receives financial aid, student loans and receives work-study from the federal government working at CSUâ€™s University Center for the Arts.
He found once he got to the rally, that the crisis is not a crisis that affects individuals but rather a crisis of the entire higher education community of Colorado.
â€œThere are no rivalries in higher education; weâ€™re all in this together, Lajoie said.
Though the rally was a first step, Lajoie said heâ€™d like to see more participation, more awareness and more people spreading the word.
â€œIf more students speak in front of their classes, speak to friends, speak to their parents, speak to voters and speak to their community, it would help everyone,â€ he said.
Associated Students of CSU Vice President Tim Hole, a senior political science major, said he wants a whole new demographic of people â€“â€“ business leaders, community members and everyone in the state â€“â€“ to become supporters of higher education.
Hole understands state policy makers are in an arduous position and have to make tough budget decisions but said he also reacts to the higher education crisis, illustrated by $377 million in state funding cuts in the fiscal current year, with sadness.
â€œSo many students and so many people affected by higher education in Colorado will just let (higher education funding) go without saying a word,â€ he said. â€œToday was all about spreading the word that Colorado students are not going to sit by and let these cuts happen â€“â€“ they are going to be a vocal body.â€
Matt Worthington, director of ASCSUâ€™s Legislative Affairs Department and organizer of Wednesdayâ€™s rally, was encouraged by the eventâ€™s energy and described it as successful overall. He doesnâ€™t, however, feel that anything has been accomplished yet.
â€œLooking forward, we think that we can really do some good work representing students and fighting for higher education in Colorado,â€ he said.
For Worthington, itâ€™s really about getting students down to Denver on March 3 to march on the Capitol and garner legislative support.
â€œWeâ€™ll see if students answer the call and meet us down in Denverâ€ Worthington said, â€œweâ€™re hoping for a mile-long march of
Worthington is challenging students to stay engaged in the issue, and not just be aware but to also spread the word.
â€œHigher ed is dying, and we need to do something quick, because it is too valuable to lose.â€
Staff writer Ryan Sheine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.