Ramapo College students testified at the assembly budget hearing on higher education at Felician University in Rutherford on March 29 to speak about proposed changes to the state budget, specifically need-based programs, that could negatively impact the aid students receive.
Ramapo senior and history major Karlito Almeda was one of the students who gave a testimony in protest of the budget. He began by declaring that given the harsh economic standing of society, New Jersey “should be building the foundation for prosperity by investing, not divesting, in our pathway to progress – higher education.”
He spoke of the economic hardships of an aspiring student named Jane, detailing the sacrifices Jane was forced to make in return for a college education: working five jobs, enduring long commutes that often forced her to reside in her car and receiving an average of a mere four hours of sleep a night, all while receiving grades of B’s or higher. Jane is the epitome of ambition and motivation, but her endurance has cost her, Almeda said.
“These are qualities that should be rewarded and encouraged amongst all New Jersey students, but not at the expense of an individual’s physical, emotional and academic health,” Almeda said. He added that no student should have to forgo his or her health to receive the benefits and successes that a college education can entail.
Another student, freshman and political science major Stephan Lally, also delivered remarks at the hearing. Lally addressed the uneven playing field regarding funding for New Jersey education. He noted that different colleges in the state receive different funding for reasons that are often unclear to the general public.
Lally also said that while New Jersey K-12 education receives some of the highest amount of funding in the country, higher education in the state receives a much smaller percentage of state funds.
“The lack of additional state funding towards higher education makes it challenging for students like me to leave school with manageable debt,” Lally remarked.
Jamie Velazquez, sophomore law and society major, also testified. Velazquez spoke on behalf of his experience in Ramapo’s Educational Opportunity Fund, or EOF, program at Ramapo.
According to President Peter Mercer’s post on March 30, “the Educational Opportunity Fund’s grants and scholarships would be cut by 8.4 percent” from this new budget. Velazquez attested to the benefits the EOF program has presented him and other members of the program. He also spoke to the fact that many fellow members have voiced concern about New Jersey’s educational funding. As a first generation college student, Velazquez credited the EOF program for assisting him in achieving his education.
“I hope you understand that for every student that is assisted through the EOF program, the state is providing a blessing that will change the lives of many students for the better,” Velazquez said.
Here's the full budget hearing: