Public higher education funding is declining, student debt is soaring, and U.S. competitiveness in the global economy is narrowing, but do not be alarmed. Help is underway.
As of last Thursday, April April 5, Seth Hoffmeister and Shantanu Pai have been pronounced the winners of the Student Government Association’s presidential and vice-presidential elections, giving students at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point hope for the future.
Hoffmeister and Pai were able to garner 479 out of the total 686 votes in the two-way election, which also featured senatorial candidates for each of the four colleges. Furthermore, several students were successful in running write-in campaigns, although their confirmation as Senators is pending until the end of the semester.
Although both Hoffmeister and Pai supported the administration’s differential tuition increase last semester, they are also committed to affordability and accessibility in the educational system.
“I know that when I am advocating for more affordable, accessible, and quality higher education that I am doing what I enjoy,” wrote Hoffmeister in the presidential application packet that he and Pai submitted to SGA earlier this semester.
A recent independent study in Indiana University, conducted by economic researched Tripp Umbach, concluded that IU’s economic impact of universities across the country is highly undervalued in the current dominant rhetoric of “broke” or deficient state budgets.
Resulting from research, direct employment and other factors, the State of Indiana’s investment in the university is about $460 million annually, while the economic gains made by the state are estimated at $11.5 billion per year. That sum does not include the impact made by IU’s quarter of a million alumni.
Among other peer institutions reviewed by the study are the University of Wisconsin – Madison, which also reported returns in the billions for the state. Studies like this debunk the theory proposed by the Wisconsin administration that the state must suspend public services like education for temporary economic relief.
Not all is lost, however. Thanks in part to student and other organizing and political pressure on the state’s legislature, the Washington State budget that was approved by the legislature on Wednesday preserves funding for education intact.
The budget preserves higher as well as K-12 public education—without any of the traditional cuts that students, professors and citizens have come to expect across the nation. Legislators also agreed to close a half-billion dollar shortfall by raising taxes on the richest and closing a $14.5 million tax-loophole for large banks.
In Portage County, the largest employer and engine of economic growth is UWSP.
The election of candidates who are well versed in issues of higher education, and are willing to defend our economic and social progress is a step towards winning victories as in Washington. However, student apathy will need to change and collective action will be key to ensuring a sustainable future for the state and the country.
“I have been a vocal and passionate individual ever since high school, I have headed rallies that stop cutting forests in the western forests in India, to organized training sessions regarding citizen participation in city planning in a city of 4 million people,” Pai wrote in the vice-presidential candidate application.
Strong leaders will need to inspire us all into a shared fight to bring about change. The movement for education justice has only just begun, and will require each of us to actively participate.
“I am not content with complacency and I am not discouraged by how much work is to be done,” Hoffmeister wrote in his application.
“This political turmoil, in the State and the World at large, calls for creative solutions that must be sound both in thought and policy,” Pai wrote.