FLAMES OF THE TORCH

The past year has not been positive
for Governor David Paterson’s
relationship with New York college
students. As the economy continues
to cripple state budgets and programs,
drastic choices have been made in order
to keep the state afl oat. Unfortunately
for young New Yorkers, education has
taken some of the heaviest hits under
the Governor’s statewide budget cuts.

Earlier in the year, Paterson successfully
passed a $90 million reduction in
state funding for student fi nancial aid.

This past November, a student campaign
group called “Many Voices, One
SUNY” created a petition to protest
proposed budget cuts to the SUNY system,
obtaining more than 14,000 students
put their signatures to.

According to the group’s Web site,
studentassembly.org, the petition was
hand-delivered to the Governor’s offi
ce along with hundreds of student
letters. The Web site quotes Melody
Mercedes, President of the SUNY Student
Assembly, as saying “We are insisting
that you make no cuts to SUNY
or TAP [Tuition Assistance Program].

We are the future of New York-don’t
shortchange our education!”

Surely, Ms. Mercedes and her fellow
peers have a strong argument for
keeping education as well funded as
possible. The November petition was a
measure to stop the bleeding and prevent
a further $24 million SUNY cut
from passing, and an additional $28
million to TAP funding.

Naturally, this would affect nearly
all New Yorker’s who rely on student
aid from the state. Considering the timing
of this petition and the circumstances,
the students involved might be labeled
as incredibly resilient. Sadly, the
group’s petitions for aid have obviously
fallen on deaf ears in Albany.

In December, the New York Times
reported that Paterson was “unilaterally
withholding $750 million in scheduled
payments to schools and local governments.”

In response to such a move,
Paterson claimed that more cutbacks
were necessary at the expense of New
York’s students in order to save the
state from further fi nancial ruin.

Facing angry students and his
many critics, Paterson maintained
that he was well within the law to reduce
10 to19 percent of state aid, and
that the funding would resume when
the state could afford it.

Last week, the budget crunching
continued in Albany on a monumental
scale when Paterson proposed further
cuts to school aid and almost $1 billion
in additional state sales taxes.

The New York Times described the
proposed education cut as the largest
cut in more than two decades,
troubling news for those students
petitioning a stop to the cuts.

It’s an undeniable truth that the
American economy has been suffering
in recent years, and with it, state
economies in turn suffer too. But to
repeatedly deprive the students of
this state such an enormous amount
of money, and accumulate such an irresponsible streak of tax hikes is truly
an unforgivable failure.

Governor Paterson has failed the
students of New York over the past
months, letting them down in a time
when they need aid the most. His neglect
of New York’s state colleges
and universities has been deadly to
a once nationally respected public
education system, and it has left
thousands of students scrambling to
fund their degrees alone.