The Stop the Cuts Coalition led a march of about 30 people from the Missouri State Capitol to the governor's mansion to protest the rising cost of college for students as taxes decrease for corporate America.
Stop the Cuts is a coalition of University of Missouri campus and community groups that have organized in opposition to Gov. Eric Greitens' proposed almost $98 million cut to higher education, which could result in the loss of about 475 jobs across the University of Missouri System. This comes as Greitens has proposed $800 million in tax cuts to reduce Missouri's top income tax rate and taxes on corporations.
The protesters chanted call and responses such as, "Public education is under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back."
University and high school students gave testimonials as they faced the front lawn of the governor's mansion.
Junior MU journalism major Ningyuan Hu, an international student from China, said her parents worked their entire lives so she could receive a quality education in America, but she fears they will not be able to afford major additional expenses.
"It was not easy for me to get here," she said. "My parents spent all of their savings to support me, to pay for tuition, fees and all the expenses. I'm here, because I don't want to be robbed the right of education."
Hu also spoke for an MU English teacher who was told she would not be employed through the University after her maternity leave is complete.
Victoria Vitale, an MU social work and economics student who grew up in North County, St. Louis, said increasing tuition could make it very difficult for her to become a social worker and advocate for the under-represented, showing the ripple effects in cuts to higher education that can occur throughout the state. She asked Greitens to save the state by ending his proposed cuts to higher education.
"Gov. Greitens, as you're party is so fond of saying, I pulled myself up from my bootstraps," Vitale said. "My bootstraps looked like a full-time job since I was 16, paying for my own ACT classes and accumulating student loans left and right. My question, governor, is why does becoming a social worker in a publicly funded Missouri school so financially difficult? I have already sacrificed my time and energy into the rigors of my studies and to my job to make ends meet. Once I'm working in the social work field, I will sacrifice my emotional reserves while serving my clients. Why must I also sacrifice my financial future? Why must I question myself everyday if I will ever be able to afford to have children?"
Angel Montie, a Rock Bridge High School student, expressed his peers' apprehension of entering higher education with the prospect of increasing costs. "I am the next generation that will be moving on into higher education, and honestly, all I can say is we are all terrified," he said. "We are facing a state government of is actively choosing to leave an uneducated populous throughout its state for the sake of making money."