Rising tuition costs and budget cuts amid the tight economy are drawing the attention of several student groups.

A banner padlocked to the rails above the SC entrance sums up student frustration with tuition. Andrea Whatcott/UVU Review

A homemade banner has hung over the north entrance to the Sorenson Center beginning the first week of January. The banner lacks graphics and identifying marks, but its message is clear:

“No more budget cuts / No more tuition hikes / Fight back for education”

The UVU Student Association, Student Alumni Association and Revolutionary Students’ Union are all attempting to tackle the issue of higher education funding, with differing opinions on the best approach.

Despite their common goal, these differences are causing the groups to undermine their collective efforts.

By far the most influential of the three is UVUSA, with close ties to school administrators and connections in state government.

Both Student Body President Richard Portwood and Chief Justice Nefi Acosta stress the need for students to keep state support of UVU in mind during the debate.
“A lot of students that aren’t well-informed about the entire issue are just angry,” said Portwood. He cited expansion of the science building as evidence of legislative support during tough economic times.

Acosta suggested that students might get a more positive response by writing a “thank you” to state representatives for what they’ve done so far before asking for additional funding.

This approach appeals to a wide range of students and appeases legislators, but it doesn’t reflect many students’ discontent with rising costs. With their influential position, UVUSA tends to dominate the administration’s attention, alienating smaller groups’ efforts.

The Student Alumni Association has a different solution to the problem, highlighting a lack of support from alumni on Capitol Hill.

“Alumni involvement is horrible,” said UVU Student Alumni representative Parker Donat. The implication in the statement is that UVU alumni lag behind other schools in lobbying the legislature.“

‘Wolverine forever’,” said Donat, quoting the organization’s slogan. “We want to get students involved as an advocate for the school early and continue after graduation.”

Though they both want students to have the opportunity to meet with legislators, these two groups seem to view the other as a drain on their resources rather than working together to support similar causes.

The Alumni Association needs UVUSA to help them build their organization as the university graduates more students with four-year degrees. At the same time, UVUSA has to recognize that a strong alumni base is vital to a school’s long-term success.

As a grassroots movement, the Revolutionary Students’ Union takes a direct approach confronting the issue. This semester the club has collected student signatures on a petition demanding a 10 percent increase in state funding to UVU.

“UVU is the lowest funded school per capita in the state,” said Joshua West. “Even if the state agrees, we would still be one of the lowest funded schools. We believe education is a basic human right and not just a privilege.”

The petition has gathered around 1,000 student signatures, and plans are to continue until mid-March.

All of these groups have viable ways to reach out to the state and three separate sources send a clear message that students here need more recognition through funding. Growth from UVU accounted for half of Utah’s higher education growth last fall.

Students here deserve the same funding as students of similar universities and they need the best efforts of those representing them. They need to be treated with the same respect as any other student in Utah.

UVUSA, the Student Alumni Association and RSU need to reach state legislators in their own way, but at the same time cooperate to maximize their resources.
“Strength in numbers,” said Parker Donat. “If we do it alone, we’ll never win.”