Article and photo by: Lynn Dollekamp
On Thursday morning, May 23, FSCJ students held a press conference at Downtown Campus on the impacts of the proposed Legislative budget cuts on local education and the Jacksonville community. There were roughly 75 students protesting and holding signs reading “Support FSCJ” and “Support higher education funding, not cuts.” In addition, the students were chanting “FSCJ these cuts are not okay.” Clearly, the students are upset, but how much influence will these budget cuts really have on Florida State College at Jacksonville?
Florida State College at Jacksonville is a state college that is part of the Florida College System. FSCJ offers both four-year bachelor’s degrees and associate degrees. According to the FSCJ website, the state college serves 50,000 students annually and has a great impact on students in the Jacksonville area, America and even from all over the world. However, FSCJ might lose approximately $3 million in funding.
If the proposed cuts are passed, this will heavily impact not only current and incoming students, but also the staff members of FSCJ. Budget cuts of this degree will restrict FSCJ from doing what they do best: Educate. FSCJ educates their nurses, dental hygienists, firefighters, cops, business administrators, and many more students through more than just teaching in the classroom. FSCJ provides students support services, such as tutors, advisors and affordable workforce programs. Furthermore, FSCJ has over 400 full-time faculty and around 800 part- time faculty members that are teaching the students the most current educational material. If FSCJ does lose $3 million in funds, some jobs might be jeopardized. Consequently, if teachers and staff members lose their job, they cannot help further the education of these students.
According to Lyse Medina, former chair and member of the FSCJ Kent Campus Student Government Association, these budget cuts will not only affect FSCJ, but also “100,000 of students in the Florida College System.” Lyse Medina is a student at FSCJ herself, recently graduated with her Associates of Arts Degree and has experienced what it is like to be part of a state college.
“We go to FSCJ because it is affordable, the class sizes are smaller, it is convenient and it is closer to home,” she said during the press conference that was entirely organized and set up by the FSCJ students themselves. State Colleges are known to not only provide smaller classes at at adorable rata, but also have flexible schedules, pay special attention to veterans, teach technical skills and provide non-traditional educational opportunities. “FSCJ wants their students to succeed by providing free tutoring to help us pass our classes and from having Student Life where we can get involved in co-curricular activities while being in college,” said Medina.
Having co-curricular activities are important for the students, just like specific programs that might lose money due to the proposed budget cuts. FSCJ athletics department, also known as the “BlueWave”, is proud to feature six teams: baseball, softball, tennis, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and volleyball. In addition to performing on a competitive level in the National Junior College Athletic Association, the BlueWave also has a strong history of achieving tremendous academic success. Barvenia Wooten, the BlueWave women’s basketball coach, was also present at the press conference on Thursday. Coach Wooten served as the Vice President of the Women’s American Basketball League and has a lot of experience under her belt as a college coach.
“If these budget cuts will affect students, it will affect athletics as a program. School and academics comes first for the athletes, and we strive for the players to be the best both off and on the court.” Wooten said. According to the FSCJ website, in the calendar year of 2015-16, 27 of the BlueWave athletes made the All-American team for the Florida College System Activities Association with a 3.30 GPA or higher. “Resources such as tutoring and one-on-one help from the teachers are important for athletes, so they can maintain their GPA and have enough credit hours to transfer to a 4-year school.” Wooten said.
According to Michael Morgan, a non-traditional veteran student “these cuts to FSCJ would really dampen the opportunity for future students to be able to come here and obtain their degree.” Morgan stated during the press conference. Since FSCJ is not a traditional four year college, it gives students that are not quite ready for college the opportunity to come in, study, learn at their own pace, and prepare themselves to possibly transfer out to bigger schools such as University of North Florida, Jacksonville University and University of Florida. Also, some students are not sure yet what they want to after college or what they want to study. A community college, such as FSCJ, provides a progressive option for students in these specific situations. In addition, it also gives non-traditional students such as veterans, parents and older students the opportunity to balance school with their career or family obligations. “It is very important and I take it very personally that we get this funding back in place for our college, it is like home to us, and we want to make sure we keep it here and we get everybody here that needs the opportunity and furthers their education, no matter what age, gender, creed, or nationality.” Morgan concluded in his speech at the FSCJ press conference.
The proposed budget cuts will thus have severe impacts on the current and future students of FSCJ, of which many require the services offered by the community college, such as one-on-one tutoring. Moreover, it will also have an impact on the teaching staff and their abilities to help their students to perform to the best of their abilities. Hence, FSCJ students encourage students, staff, and everyone else affected or concerned about these proposed budget cuts to email or write to Governor Scott, of which contact information can be found at http://www.flgov.com/contact-gov-scott/email-the-governor/.