Fredonia State College students turned out 500 strong for a rally Thursday to protest the recent tuition diversion that state lawmakers enacted.
The $310 midterm tuition hike resulted in a net of $31 to the SUNY system and $279 returning to the state budget to help fund deficits.
Student Association President Nick Dhimitri organized the event. State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, and Fredonia State President Dennis Hefner joined the protest in the Williams Center.
"A couple weeks ago in an unprecedented move by the governor and State Legislature, Albany voted to take 90 percent of that tuition money away from SUNY, leaving Fredonia with very little additional money to make up for the cuts to their budget and placing SUNY in an impossible position," Dhimitri told the students.
"I think it is inappropriate to try and close the budget gap on the backs of the students," he said.
Young, who did not vote in favor of the measure, sides with the students.
"Currently, decision-makers in Albany are taking you for granted, and the governor and the Legislature are not doing what they should to ensure both your education and the education of those who will follow in your footsteps," Hefner said.
Dhimitri said students will continue their protests, with one planned Tuesday in Albany. He said a large contingent from Fredonia State is planning to go.
A petition started at Fredonia and circulated among other SUNY schools has already gathered more than 10,000 signatures, according to Dhimitri. He said the goal is 20,000 signatures before the Albany event Tuesday.
Dhimitri, joined on the ramparts by Senior Class President Patrick Horn, said he hopes student protests will be heard and prevent further cuts to the SUNY budget.
"Between April and September of 2008, SUNY stateoperated campuses incurred $210 million in cuts, roughly a 14 percent reduction -- the highest cut in the entire state budget," Hefner noted.
He said Gov. David A. Paterson has a proposal before the Legislature to take 80 percent of the extra $310 in tuition students will pay next year, when the new rate is applied for an entire year.
Hefner said Paterson's plan also calls for $40 million in state funding cuts to four-year campuses and a tax on outside grants the faculty may receive.
"For Fredonia, between cuts in funding and the tax on tuition, it would represent $6.2 million [for] a cut of more than 30 percent," Hefner said.