Testing Trenton

Three Seton Hall students addressed the New Jersey Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee in Trenton on Monday about the proposed Fiscal Year 2011 New Jersey state budget and the effect its passing would have on Seton Hall students.

Sergio Suarez, a senior political science major from Newark, spoke on behalf of Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey, specifically about the proposed budget cuts to the Tuition Aid Grant (TAG), which are proposed to take place for 2011.

Suarez was recommended to speak by Chris Kuretich, associate dean of students.

“I received the TAG prior to transferring to Seton Hall University,” Suarez said in an e-mail interview. “It was so significant to me because it helped relieve the financial burden from my mother. She was a single parent attempting to help me pay for my education. As per the N.J. Constitution, a balance budget must be in place by June 30. All in all, the Governor stated that there is going to be ‘shared sacrifice’ and that the budget was going to be fair. After looking at the budget, it looks like students will burden the brunt of the ‘fair share.'”

According to the State of N. J. Department of Treasury website, the proposed budget has cut its spending budget by 8.9 percent. The proposed budget will spend approximately 29.3 billion dollars, as compared to last year’s appropriation act budget of 32.2 billion dollars.

According to an e-mail from the Seton Hall Office of Government Relations, the proposed 2011 N.J. budget includes a 100 percent cut in direct aid, limits TAG awards provided to need-based students and reduces the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) by 8.7 percent.

Suarez went to Trenton with senior Miyokee Lovell and sophomore Simone Robinson, who were speaking on behalf of Educational Opportunity Fund. Lovell and Robinson are both recipients of the fund, according to Suarez.

“They wanted to emphasize the impact that the EOF program had on Seton Hall University, especially those who are economically and educationally disadvantaged,” Suarez said.

Miyokee Lovell described her experience at Trenton in an e-mail interview was “one I will not soon forget.”

“As an EOF student, I find it profoundly important to stay abreast with the financial dealings of the university and the state,” Lovell said. “This is essential to EOF students because we are assisted financially in order to pursue our college careers.

Lovell emphasized the importance of EOF and how it contributes to students’ success when she spoke in front of the committee.

“Not only does the Seton Hall University EOF program support its students financially, but it also provides counseling and tutoring services that play a huge role in our success,” Lovell said. “The budget cuts that the governor wants to implement will affect us significantly and may even jeopardize some students’ stay here at Seton Hall. With EOF, failure is not an option and the EOF students will not allow these cuts to be implemented without a fight.”

Suarez explained the problem he saw in the proposed N.J. budget is that it will put Seton Hall students at a “tremendously difficult position when attempting to finance their
education.”

“At Seton Hall University, about 275 first time TAG recipients will be negatively impacted by the proposed cap on the TAG award,” Suarez said. “In the budget, Governor Christie is proposing to cap TAG awards at the state college award level. This is particularly troubling considering the disparity between tuition at the state university and here at Seton Hall. Not to mention the proposed five percent tuition increase, which is said to take place next year.”

Suarez said that though he will not be directly affected by next year’s state budget, he wanted to advocate for the hundreds of students through N.J. who depend on the program to continue their education.

“I specifically said that the students at Seton Hall will be hit twice because, not only is the proposed budget going to cap the TAG at the state college award level, Governor Christie is also proposing a 100 percent cut in Direct Aid for the Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey,” Suarez said. “Cutting TAG makes it impossible for student to afford a college education while eliminating direct aid to the independent institutions makes it harder for Seton Hall to pick up the slack and support us as we receive less TAG. We are basically going to be hit twice.”

Following his speech, Suarez said that he was given a warm reception by committee and engaged in conversation with them about TAG.

“(I) told the committee that if it were not for the TAG and other aid to help finance my education, I would have not been able to stay in college early on,” Suarez said. “They appreciated my testimony and thanked me for sharing my opinion with them.

In his opinion, Suarez said that he does not think the budget will pass as it is currently proposed.

“It has met a lot of well deserved opposition, which will make it hard for law makers in the state to support the proposed budget,” Suarez said. “I urge my fellow student and those in the administration to continue to oppose the propose bill. Like I stated in my testimony, we in New Jersey need to show the country that we are not willing to sacrifice education in these hard financial times.”

Seton Hall AICUNJ also coordinated a letter campaign to N. J. legislators. On April 20 and April 21, the Office of Government Relations was in the University Center lobby with letters to N. J. legislators for students and faculty to sign, urging them to preserve the TAG, EOF, and direct aid funding.
Miyokee Lovell described her experience at Trenton as “one I will not soon forget” in an e-mail interview.

“As an EOF student, I find it profoundly important to stay abreast with the financial dealings of the university and the state,” Lovell said. “This is essential to EOF students because we are assisted financially in order to pursue our college careers.

Lovell emphasized the importance of EOF and how it contributes to students’ success when she spoke in front of the committee.
“Not only does the Seton Hall University EOF program support its students financially, but it also provides counseling and tutoring services that play a huge role in our success,” Lovell said. “The budget cuts that the governor wants to implement will affect us significantly and may even jeopardize some students’ stay here at Seton Hall. With EOF, failure is not an option and the EOF students will not allow these cuts to be implemented without a fight.”

Suarez explained the problem he saw in the proposed N.J. budget is that it will put Seton Hall students at a “tremendously difficult position when attempting to finance their education.”

“At Seton Hall University, about 275 first time TAG recipients will be negatively impacted by the proposed cap on the TAG award,” Suarez said. “In the budget, Governor Christie is proposing to cap TAG awards at the state college award level. This is particularly troubling considering the disparity between tuition at the state university and here at Seton Hall. Not to mention the proposed five percent tuition increase, which is said to take place next year.”

Suarez said that though he will not be directly affected by next year’s state budget, he wanted to advocate for the hundreds of students through N.J. who depend on the program to continue their education.
“I specifically said that the students at Seton Hall will be hit twice because, not only is the proposed budget going to cap the TAG at the state college award level, Governor Christie is also proposing a 100 percent cut in Direct Aid for the Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey,” Suarez said. “Cutting TAG makes it impossible for student to afford a college education while eliminating direct aid to the independent institutions makes it harder for Seton Hall to pick up the slack and support us as we receive less TAG. We are basically going to be hit twice.”

Following his speech, Suarez said that he was given a warm reception by the committee and engaged in conversation with them about TAG.
“(I) told the committee that if it were not for the TAG and other aid to help finance my education, I would have not been able to stay in college early on,” Suarez said. “They appreciated my testimony and thanked me for sharing my opinion with them.”

In his opinion, Suarez said that he does not think the budget will pass as it is currently proposed.

“It has met a lot of well deserved opposition, which will make it hard for law makers in the state to support the proposed budget,” Suarez said. “I urge my fellow students and those in the administration to continue to oppose the propose bill. Like I stated in my testimony, we in New Jersey need to show the country that we are not willing to sacrifice education in these hard financial times.”

Seton Hall AICUNJ also coordinated a letter campaign to N. J. legislators. On April 20 and April 21, the Office of Government Relations was in the University Center lobby with letters to N.J. legislators for students and faculty to sign, urging them to preserve the TAG, EOF, and direct aid funding.

Brittany Biesiada can be reached at brittany.biesiada@student.shu.edu.

Author: Staff Writer

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