College Park Students Protest Doomsday Budget Cuts To Higher Education

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WJZ)—Millions of dollars in budget cuts are looming. Now students are pleading for Governor Martin O’Malley to call a special session to deal with the crisis.

Weijia Jiang explains what’s at stake.

University of Maryland students say lawmakers are failing them.

“They didn’t do their jobs at all because if you’re trying to balance a budget on the backs of students who already don’t have any money, you got a problem,” one student said.

At a rally Thursday, several hundred marched on campus, urging the governor to call a special session to hash out a budget–a task the state legislature did not accomplish by sine die.

“I’m sorry we didn’t get the job done. They need to work to make sure we actually come back and get the job done,” said Sen. Richard Madaleno, D-Maryland.

Otherwise, a so-called doomsday budget will cut deep into to higher education– $38.5 million less for public universities, nearly $20 million less for community schools, and grants to private schools would be slashed by $4 million.

That means a spike in tuition to make up for it.

“Students are struggling right now: $800 it would be for in-state students and $2,600 it would be for out-of-state students. That would be a lot of money,” one student said.

“Not everyone’s family can afford this kind of money,” another student said.

But the governor says he won’t call a session unless there’s a consensus between House and Senate leaders, who for now are playing the blame game.

“If you don’t have the hutzpuh, the nerve, guts, gumption to raise taxes, that’s what’s going to happen,” said Mike Miller, Maryland Senate President.

“If you don’t have a revenue package, you can’t make a vote on it,” said Michael Busch, Maryland Speaker of the House.

No vote means learning the hard way.

“All of us will be reminded of the degree to which things like public safety, public education and affordable college are shared responsibilities here in Maryland,” O’Malley said.

The State Education Association launched a timer to count down until July 1 when the doomsday budget goes into effect. Students are desperate to stop that clock.

“We’re all students. We all have loans. College is already so expensive,” one student said.

Organizers of the rally say the next step is to launch a letter writing campaign to lawmakers and the governor. They’re using social media, email and phone calls to spread the word.

The doomsday budget also includes more than $200 million in cuts from Maryland’s public school system for grades K through 12.

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