Students participate in higher education protest at state Capitol


Photo by: Jeffery Miller

Students across the state gather at the capitol to protest education budget cuts last Wednesday.

On Apr. 19, a group of Nicholls students traveled to Baton Rouge for the higher education demonstration, where student leaders from colleges across the state voiced their concerns about budget cuts.

There were close to 150 students in attendance, representing all four college systems in the state.
According to the Baton Rouge Advocate, Gov. Bobby Jindal was in Ruston for an economic development announcement during the rally.

Both Adam Lefort and Lillie Bourgeois, Student Government Association president and president-elect, respectively, had the opportunity to speak before the Appropriations committee.
Lefort spoke on behalf of the University of Louisiana System since he is a student board member on its board of supervisors.

“I just want to stress the importance that we have around 200,000 students in the state of Louisiana and we are the young voice of the future,” Lefort said.

Lefort said that more and more students are going to school out of state because classes are being cut and students are not graduating on time.

“Their graduations are being pushed back years, and it’s important for us to get out into the workforce,” Lefort said.

“Governor Jindal just passed the WISE bill last year, which was a beacon of hope,” Lefort said. “It was the first year we were not cut, and we got money to help our programs that help the workforce. When y’all keep cutting after we’ve raised tuition, it’s hurting those programs, not helping.”
As the SGA President-elect, Bourgeois spoke on behalf of Nicholls.

“As a voice for higher education, I represent not only 238,000 students across the state of Louisiana, but that’s 238,000 voters,” Bourgeois said, echoing University President Bruce Murphy’s words.

“These students that are in higher education are bettering themselves. This shouldn’t be a burden to them and their families, to be in debt when they graduate,” Bourgeois said.

“They are the ones that will hold future jobs in our state and better our economy,” Bourgeois said, “these will be the future leaders of our state. At Nicholls specifically, 66% of students are first generation college students, which is a really big number.”

Bourgeois explained that such a large percentage of first-generation students was due to the fact that Nicholls is accessible to the bayou region. Nicholls is also one of the most affordable four-year institutions in the state, according to Bourgeois, which helps drive enrollment, despite tuition increases.

“We make do with what we have, the little that we have,” Bourgeois said, “but any more cuts in our programs will allow a tipping point in the University and cause even more degree programs to be cut.”
Nicholls offers several unique degree programs like the culinary program, the engineering technology and safety management program and the maritime management program. If any of them should be cut, it would greatly affect the economy of the area.

Rep. Ted James responded to Bourgeois’ testimony with a reminder for all students to take back to their campuses.

James said, “With your parents and your guardians, that’s over 690,000 votes that you have, so remember to actually exercise that right to vote. With over 690,000 voters, you could really make a difference in October.”

Marine biology sophomore Elizabeth Garvey was one of the twelve Nicholls students who traveled to the capitol for the demonstrations.

Garvey said, “I decided to go today because the budget cuts are really affecting not only Nicholls, but every college in the state. It’s really important that these budget cuts don’t happen because higher education is very important to us.”

“We need higher education because it’s very hard to find a job,” Garvey said, “[Businesses] don’t just hire you; they want a degree. You can’t get a good well-paying job without a degree.”