Nearly two thousand students from colleges and universities around Louisiana showed up at the state Capitol on Wednesday. About a dozen lawmakers were in attendance as well.
Joy Ballard, Student Government President at the University of New Orleans, told them “it’s not enough to talk, it’s not enough to stand behind us today. Until there are real solutions, we will not be happy.”
Standing up for the students were the heads of Louisiana’s higher education systems, including Monty Sullivan, President of Louisiana’s Technical and Community College system. Addressing the crowd of students, Sullivan said, “you are not a cut. You are instead an investment by the state of Louisiana.”
Baton Rouge Representative Ted James spoke of the effect the investment the state of Louisiana made in him. "Thirteen years ago, I was a student just like you," said James, "I was a TOPS scholar just like you. And I would not have the benefit of serving, but for the investment that my state made in me.”
But not all students were there because they were concerned about losing TOPS. River Parishes Community College Student Government President, Danielle Parish, is a non-traditional student, a mother of three who went back to school sixteen years after high school. Speaking to the uncertainty over further cuts to higher education, Parish says “I need to know that I will be allowed to finish my nursing program.”
Governor Edwards, who appeared at the rally and met with Student Government leaders afterwards, says he understands what's at stake with the budget crisis. "I’ve got two college-aged children, both of whom are in public institutions of higher education in Louisiana. So I am committed, I am personally invested, but not just for the future of my kids, but the future of your kids,” he says.
The full House considers revenue raising measures Thursday that could alleviate some of the uncertainty for higher education.