By Andrew Kissling
Student Senate President
Last week, the educational experience of East Stroudsburg University’s nearly 7,000 students was disrupted by a faculty strike, as well as the education of thousands of more students across Pennsylvania.
Although the strike barely lasted three full days, the effect of the strike will be felt for the rest of the school year, as well as for years to come.
Now that the strike is over and school has resumed its normal operations, it is important to look at the true cause of the strike and how one can be prevented in the future.
The strike spurred from the lack of a contract between APSCUF, the faculty union, and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) which oversees ESU and the other 14 state universities.
Major points of contention in the negotiations included employee pay increases, course workload, adjunct professors and more.
However, there is only one true cause of the faculty strike – lack of funding. The State System does not have enough money to operate its universities, therefore causing them to have to make tough financial calls such as the ones they did during the contract negotiations.
Currently, the Pennsylvania State Legislature provides enough funding through its annual budget to cover 20 percent of the costs associated with education throughout the state universities. The other 80 percent comes from students and their families.
To put this into perspective, the numbers were flipped 20 years ago, with the State providing 80 percent of the cost and the other 20 percent coming from students.
Right now, the 14 state universities are funded at 1999 funding levels, which does not meet today’s needs.
In addition to the lack of State funding, students see an annual increase in tuition of roughly 3 percent, which yields a 12 percent increase over four years in college.
Despite paying more, students are receiving less.
Courses and majors are being cut, services like professional tutoring have been eliminated, parking lots remain overcrowded, dorms and classrooms remain outdated, and valuable professors are being laid off – just to name a few things.
Despite what either side may tell you, the real cause of the strike is a lack of funding, and this issue is the single greatest threat to the 14 state universities, including ESU.
Now that a strike has occurred, there has never been a better time to advocate for more funding by the State.
The Student Senate does this on a regular basis by meeting with legislators at least twice annually, but we need your help!
Call or email a state legislator, send them a letter, share your opinions to them on social media, and most importantly – vote for state legislators in November that will increase higher education funding.
Your voice matters! If we don’t speak up now and get the funding we desperately need, a three-day strike will be the least of our worries.
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