By Noah Bryant Ballard
BATON ROUGE — Louisiana college students rallied Friday at the State Capitol, protesting expected cuts to higher education as the state addresses an historic budget crisis.
“Enough is enough,” said Bianca Webb, a student at LSU. “It’s time to stand up and save higher education in Louisiana.” Webb organized the event with help from the Black Student Leadership Council, Baton Rouge Organizing and the Save Our Schools Coalition.
John-Paul Delleau, a student at Southern University in Baton Rouge from New Orleans, says higher education needs to be a priority for the state. “It just hasn’t been a priority for several years, and look where we are now.” That neglect, he added, has students across the state worried.
“We’re scared, especially at smaller schools like mine,” said Brooke Mazac, a student at Nicholls State University from Houma. “Nicholls is my school, and I’m proud of that,” she said. “I just have to hope that (a temporary closure) won’t happen.”
Mazac urged students to be more involved in the political process. “The most important thing people can do is contact their state representatives and senators and other leaders at the local level,” she said. “That’s how things get done.”
Several state legislators attended the rally, including Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge, who addressed the crowd. “This is your house,” she said, telling students to “bombard” legislators with emails, phone calls and letters to make their voices heard.
. Another event, organized by the Louisiana Council of Student Body Presidents, is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 24 at noon.
Despite abundant enthusiasm at the rally, not all students were on board.
“I don’t think marching on the Capitol steps is necessarily a good idea,” said Levi Bankston, a mass communication major at LSU from Houma. “Demonstrations like this could end up doing more harm than good”
According to the most recent reports, higher education faces $70 million in cuts before the end of the current fiscal year (June 30) in the best case scenario. At worst, cuts could reach $200 million.