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Students lobby legislators for higher education

By Erin O'Connor

Staff Writer

WESTFIELD - On April 4, Massachusetts State College's annual State House Day, 150 students, from the nine state colleges, met with their state representatives and senators to advocate for a stronger state promise to public higher education in Massachusetts.

"It was a tremendous success," Ken Lemanski, the executive officer for the Council of Presidents said to Reminder Publications.

Lemanski said that students were able to meet with almost all of the legislators and many had lunch with the students.

"We would like to see funding restored for the Faculty Association," Bruce Jackson, a Southwick resident and Westfield State College (WSC) class of 2009 political science major, said. "That is $700,000 the college has to pay [for faculty] that it can't use for other resources."

Jackson, a student representative to the Board of trustees at WSC, said that statewide state colleges must pay out of their internal funds $6 million for faculty salaries.

He said the second reason that students are visiting Beacon Hill is to push for a capital bond bill that was filed by Massachusetts Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg to add a new academic building to WSC.

During the midpoint of the day's events Jackson told Reminder Publications that progress was good.

"I feel that there is more attention being paid to higher education than there was under the previous governor," he said. "I would like to see more at the state college and community college levels. People who graduate from these schools tend to stay in Massachusetts."

"I don't think we will be successful in all of those areas but I am optimistic," Lemanski said. "They [legislators] voiced support for the colleges and the students in particular and acknowledged this is a difficult budget."

The state budget will leave the House and Ways Committee on Apr. 11 and be debated on in the House on the 22. No debate has yet been scheduled for the Senate.

"The messages resonate with legislators when the students are the ones doing the talking," Lemanski said.