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December 22, 2014

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College students to rally against budget cuts

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Students from each of Southern Nevada's public colleges are planning to hold their first joint rally against Gov. Jim Gibbons' proposed budget cuts to higher education next Thursday, expecting a minimum of 1,000 to 5,000 people to register their discontent.

"It will be kind of like a big political campaign event," said College of Southern Nevada student body President David Waterhouse.

The 6 p.m. rally at UNLV's academic mall will feature a host of speakers explaining the problems facing the state's education system, as well as stations where individuals can write letters to state legislators or sign their names to protest letters. It will also include a response to Gibbons' state-of-the-state address.

Gibbons announced that cuts would be made to higher education, though the Millennium Scholarship would be retained.

"It's going to be mostly informational for a lot of people that have minimum knowledge about what's going on," Nevada State College Student Alliance President Ryan Crowell said. "We're trying to use this as a call for the community to come together."

Waterhouse also hoped to incorporate people concerned about public schools.

Speakers will include students, advocacy group members, labor leaders and legislators — many of whom have not heard much from students and parents, Waterhouse said.

"Sometimes it's not very easy for the average person to understand if it's not explained in simple terms," Waterhouse said.

He has been promoting the event heavily on the various campuses and purchased online advertising, he said. Organizers have also appeared on radio shows and created a Facebook group, he said.

Student body leaders began planning a rally at the beginning of fall term, Crowell said.

"We're trying to explain to the state it's not very economical to pull money out of education," he said. "You're robbing the state of industry and the potential for more industry."

Crowell said he hoped the involvement will spread beyond the education community with residents seeing education as an investment in the state's future, rather than an expense.

"Cutting from education doesn't fix any problems," he said. "It just creates new ones."

He acknowledged the fear of raising taxes, but Crowell said the topic should be broached, noting the dollars invested in education produce a high rate of return.

Waterhouse said the forum would not push specific solutions, but would focus on pressing legislators to find one.

"A lot of times, budget cuts pass right through because there's not a strong sense of community," Crowell said.

Students do not plan on ending their involvement with the rally. Leaders are planning trips to Carson City next month to meet with legislators.

"We want to work more closely on solutions," Crowell said.

Waterhouse said the rally will represent the launching point of an alliance between the education system and labor.

"The next step is to solidify a message that we take the legislators," he said. "They still need to hear from the public and understand how serious the situation is."

Dave Clark can be reached at 990-2677 or [email protected].

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