Guest Editorial: Note from the Student Regent
By Sarah Elfreth
Student Regent, University System of Maryland Board of Regents
Jan. 13 marked the beginning of the 427th Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly. More so than any other year, the budget will dominate this legislative session as questions of a tuition increase, delays in capital funding, and the future of the Higher Education Investment Fund are debated. As the student representative on the governing board for the USM, the Board of Regents, I have the opportunity to lobby for the concerns of all 149,000 students in the System, but the effort must be larger than just one student.
My primary charge as the student regent is to both engage and mobilize students in USM issues and the legislative process. In the four years I've lobbied in Annapolis I have had the opportunity to serve with only a handful of other USM students. Needless to say, there is nothing I want more than for this trend to change. Oftentimes students are neglected as members of relevant debates due to our unconventional schedules. We are appropriately concerned with passing classes, paying tuition, and graduating on time. These obligations, however, should not prevent us from sharing our insightful opinions on the issues that most affect the state. Nearly every issue, from tuition to the future of the Bay, will have a major affect on our lives both today and tomorrow.
The quantity of legislative issues requiring student input is innumerable. State leader's commitment to affordability has allowed in-state undergraduates to pay no increase in tuition for the past four years. In his recently released budget, Governor O'Malley has proposed a 3% tuition increase; a moderate increase when compared to the drastic measures other states have been forced to take during these difficult fiscal times, but one that still needs to survive the legislative session. At the same time, ensuring that funding for the USM stays intact throughout session will prove to be difficult for higher education leaders who will certainly need help from students in emphasizing how essential higher education is to Maryland's citizens and economy. Students especially need to stress the real-life consequences budget cuts may have such as increased class sizes, decreased course offerings, and longer time to graduation; all of which negatively impact the quality of higher education.
These difficult fiscal times present legislators with countless challenges but also countless opportunities to do the right thing. As students we see the affects of budget cuts more than anyone thus it is our obligation to make our concerns heard. So if you find yourself in Annapolis over the next few months, let me know. We can grab coffee, discuss politics, and revel in being some of the youngest people in the room. I hope to see you there.