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Elections impact tuition

02/26/2014

I hear it time and time again: “My vote doesn’t really count, why waste my time?” My response begins with a face-palm and ends with a lecture that the inquisitive listener never bargained for.

If you’re this person, I want to walk through why your vote really does matter and why your apathy is costing you time, money, and stress.

When we talk about ‘elections,’ we’re not just talking about who becomes President or Vice President. We’re talking about who sits on your local school board and who votes on your behalf in the city council or the state legislature.

These ‘elections’ are deeper than Fox News/CNN sound-byte politics. They decide how and when your garbage is picked up each week, what kinds of teachers provide your education, and most importantly to us, how the state budget is made each year.

“But I don’t give a rip about the state budget!” Yes you do. It costs you more and more every year that you aren’t caring.

See, state Representatives and Senators make this budget. These folks run for election every four years and decide how to spend our tax dollars.

They balance funding requests with limited revenue. They pit pre-kindergarten against two-year colleges, new textbooks against new facilities, educator pay increases against new programs, and four-year universities against K-12.

Jacksonville State University is a state-supported school. This means (contrary to popular opinion) that most of JSU’s operating costs are covered by appropriations in the state budget, which are made by our legislators—whom we elect.

This year is an election year, and it just so happens that the state budgets will be made within the next few weeks. As the old adage goes: the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

If college students continue to carry the “my vote doesn’t matter” mindset, so will the folks that represent us. If we’re not on the minds of our legislators, who are making budgets that determine our University’s funding, then what do you expect the outcome will be?

Typically, it’s underfunding for the University, which forces the Board of Trustees to raise tuition on you and me to offset the costs.

Fortunately, President Meehan has committed that (pending no drastic shortfall in state funding) tuition will not increase next year, so we can at least get that worry off our chest. But who can speak for the next year? Or the year after that?

You and I, that’s who.

There is an election in November.

On the ballot will be state Representatives and Senators, many of whom will have a record or a stance on Higher Education funding.

It is your job to make sure that position or record represents your interests. And your best interest, at least if you pay tuition, is more state funding and no increased tuition rates.

So, next time someone asks, you can avoid the face-palm and respond confidently: “Yes, elections really do matter—to all of us.”

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