Students Rally Against Budget Cuts in Harrisburg

by Diane VanDyke

Twenty Montgomery County Community College students, led by President Dr. Karen Stout, rallied at the state capitol on April 5 to ask legislators to reject Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed 10 percent budget cut for the state’s 14 community colleges.

The budget proposed cut means a $1.9 million loss for the College at a time when enrollment has increased by more than 30 percent during the last five years. Approximately 23,000 students attend the campuses in Blue Bell and Pottstown.

“Funding for the College from the state has been essentially the same since 2003-04,” Dr. Stout said. “We also have not received any capital funding, and the increased enrollment has put a strain on the facilities. We are at near capacity at both campuses.”

The Governor’s proposed budget also cuts programs students rely on for success with their education. These include the dual enrollment that allows high school students to earn college credits and the New Choices, New Options career development program for single parents.

Factoring the elimination of these programs, the total loss to the College is actually $2.2 million.

The rally started with the students gathered on the rotunda steps, as Dr. Jerry Parker, President of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, presented the AdvancePA banner signed by 21,000 Pennsylvania residents indicating their support of community colleges.

Univest Corporation Executive Vice President Barry Stoltzfus, a member of Montgomery County Community College’s Foundation Board, spoke in support of investing in community colleges.

“When we invest in the talents of the students like those standing behind me (on the rotunda steps), we are investing in communities,” said Stoltzfus, who has served on the College’s board for more than seven years.

Following the opening, Dr. Stout and the students spent the remainder of the day visiting State Senators Stewart Greenleaf, Bob Mensch and John Rafferty and Reps. Kate Harper, Matthew D. Bradford, Thomas J. Quigley, Tim Briggs, Thomas P. Murt, Josh Shapiro, Marcy Toepel, and Mike Vereb.

During each visit, they shared their experiences and asked the legislators to maintain funding for the College.

“If Montgomery County Community College was not here for me, I would not be able to afford to go to college,” student Calvin Wang, of King of Prussia, told Rep. Briggs.

Wang, who is currently studying Physics, is a first-generation college student in his family. After getting his associate’s degree, he plans to transfer to Temple University for his baccalaureate degree.

For Ron White, Cheltenham, the College is enabling him to get the education and skills he needs for a new career after being laid off from his job at Fox 29 News.

“The classes fit with my schedule perfectly, and it’s affordable,” White told Rep. Vereb. “The faculty has been great helping me get back into the college routine.”

For Nick Natale, Pottstown, the dual enrollment program will enable him to obtain his bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering by age 20.

“I will get my associate’s degree in Liberal Studies from Montgomery County Community College in May and my diploma from Pottsgrove High School in June,” said Natale, when he met with Rep. Quigley.  “I’ll be going to Harrisburg University for Science and Technology in the fall.”

Students gather on the steps of the Rotunda at the state Capitol. Photo by Diane VanDyke

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