WNC students to join statewide protest
When Jason McGill graduated from Silver Stage High School in 2009, his opportunities were limited.
“WNC was my only real option, honestly,” he said. “This was financially the only way to go.”
But he’s afraid the integrity of the college and others throughout the state are being compromised, with the governor recommending $162.4 million in cuts to higher education.
As president of the Associated Students of Western Nevada, McGill is rallying his fellow students to join in a statewide protest at the Legislature on Monday.
While he credits Western Nevada College with giving him the foundation for success, previous budget cuts have made it a struggle.
Reduction in staffing and class offerings made it hard for him to get the classes McGill needed to earn his associate’s degree in criminal justice.
“That kind of stuff pushed me back so I will be doing a third year,” he explained.
McGill worries that with even more cuts on the horizon, the opportunity he was afforded won’t be available to others.
University and college presidents are looking at some significant changes to their operations to meet the proposed reductions.
Western Nevada College President Carol Lucey has said the satellite campuses are in jeopardy. Her tentative budget calls for closing rural centers in Fernley, Hawthorne, Lovelock, Smith Valley and Yerington in the first year.
The second year plans for reduction in services or closures in Douglas County and Fallon.
“It’s hard enough for me coming from Silver Springs to Carson,” McGill said, “but if you’re in Lovelock, you don’t really have any other options. So many students out in the rural areas are going to fall through the cracks.”
While the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents withdrew earlier this month a proposal to consolidate community colleges, closing programs, salary cuts and reducing staff are part of the plan.
Members of the student association have been handing out buttons that read, “Nevada Needs Us,” and have collected nearly 1,000 signatures on a petition to save the school.
Fliers were distributed urging fellow students to “Join us in the fight to save our education.” Demonstrators are meeting at the Carson Mall at 9:30 a.m. and will march from there to the Legislature where they will join students from across the state to protest the proposed cuts.
“I want to be one of the people to show that we do care,” Sheldon Phelps, 19, and ASWN senator.
Lindsey Lepire, 20, also an ASWN senator, has been appealing to her fellow students for weeks.
“Every class. Every day. Every Facebook status,” she said. “After petitioning and rallying and hitting up every single class, I think people are really starting to understand.”
Lisa Light saw the fliers and joined Thursday in making posters for the rally. After taking more than a decade off from school, she is back studying computer technology.
“I love this institution,” Light said. “I don’t want to see it end. It’s tragic what’s happening.”
Chase Fuller, 21, will be the first in his family to graduate from college. He’s pursuing a degree in deaf studies after living briefly with a foster sister who was deaf and teaching himself some signs to communicate with her.
“I want to help the deaf community all over the U.S.,” he said.
For Jeffrey Sandell, 23, it’s easy to find at least two reasons he wants to see higher education preserved for years to come – his son, 2, and infant daughter.
“I’m fighting for higher education,” he said. “I want to broaden my horizons, for me and for them.”
In addition to rallying outside, McGill also plans to testify before the Legislature. Although a daunting task, he’s not nervous.
“I don’t find it scary at all,” he said. “I’m speaking my mind about what matters to me. I hope this rally shows how many lives this budget affects, not just now but in the future.”