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The Indiana Statehouse didn't make quorum — the minimum number of members needed to conduct business — but it sure heard noise Tuesday afternoon as protestors from Voice for Workers and Planned Parenthood and supporters of immigration reform crowded the chamber. Alongside them, 150 students from Independent Colleges of Indiana were there to lobby against state cuts to higher education.
It was the second of three "student lobby" days, and it was an opportunity to speak out against the proposed changes to HB 1328, which will likely result in a redistribution of funds and decrease the percentage of the budget available to higher education and "freedom of choice" awards. College students came and united over big losses to enrollment due to the redistribution of "higher education" funds. Student lobbyists from Franklin, Taylor, and Indiana Tech banded together to stake out the six percent of the budget in question.
Associate Director of Financial Aid Joanne Haymaker said that although only 200 DePauw students received state grants last year, 75 of them have been forced to leave DePauw as a result of cuts in funding.
Students came to the Statehouse armed with the facts: Independent college students produce 35 percent of Indiana's bachelor's degrees, cost state taxpayers less per degree, bring money into the local economy and are twice as likely to graduate in four years.
Director of Strategic Communications Jonathan Coffin '06 organized the DePauw student effort alongside Haymaker, who said she has seen the consequences of cutbacks firsthand.
"It means students who used to get that money don't get it anymore," she said. "Students who used to qualify for the maximum $11,000 in aid then only get $7,000 now."
More than a week has passed since controversy over union workers' rights caused Democratic representatives to clear the house. But vacant seats in the gallery didn't stop DePauw Student Government President Christine Walker, a senior, from advocating her cause to four state legislators. She said the outcome of the bill is just as important to her personally as it is to the entire university.
"I think it's frustrating," Walker said. "We have an extremely generous university and board of trustees who have done everything they can in terms of giving more and more of endowment. It gets to a point when they cannot give anymore and sustain our quality of education."
Haymaker said nine percent of DePauw students are affected by the reductions to higher education. Sophomore Sadie Clark said she falls into that percentage and met with Sen. Mike Delph (R-29) to express the financial strain she experienced as a result.
"Both my parents are teachers," Clark said. "There is really not a lot in the budget to pay for my education. I rely a lot on scholarships and state funding."
Clark said whether or not she attends another semester at DePauw lies with decisions made in this session. While the bill has already passed the first house, Clark, like the rest of the concerned Independent Colleges of Indiana, hopes her voice is heard over the rest of the Statehouse noise.
Correction: the above story says 75 students left DePauw. It should say that 75 students lost their state scholarships.