Along with many others throughout the country, students at Rutgers University in New Jersey work hard to battle the economic crisis. At Rutgers, however, they suffer the added pressure of Gov. Chris Christie's budget cuts, which have dramatically affected the state's universities.
These slashes in funding will set the university back by about $18.5 million, and as public investment decreases, students and their families will be forced to shoulder the burden of rising costs.
Undergraduates at Rutgers will have to pay an average of $12,559 in tuition and fees this fall -- approximately double what they would have a decade ago.
Joel Salvino, a sophomore in Rutgers University's School of Biological Sciences, acts as commander when he organizes rallies on Rutgers' New Brunswick campus to protest Christie's proposed budget cuts. Despite Salvino's short stature, his voice is as commanding as an army drill sergeant's and his words can be heard across campus. On April 21, Salvino played a main role in organizing a rally on the steps of Brower Commons.
"By having thousands of students working for the same goals, the possibilities are limitless," Salvino said.
Determined to change the minds of the citizens of Trenton, New Jersey, Salvino urged all Rutgers students to vote against the budget cuts. He spoke with overwhelming passion, saying that if the entire student body joins "the rest of the public schools and community colleges," they will be able to argue more effectively for improved state funding.
Tent State University, an event in which a group of students build a hooverville-like university by setting up a field of tents on Vorhees Mall, started on April 24 and lasted throughout the week. This event is supposed to show residents of Trenton how serious the students are about stopping the budget cuts.
In addition to protesting, students are taking tangible steps to cope with the higher tuition.
Bernier, a junior at the School of Arts and Sciences, works as a resident assistant at New Gibbons Hall on Rutger's Douglass Campus. As an RA, she does not have to pay for housing.
"Being an RA was a constant job that requires a lot of my time, but it is worth the money," Bernier said, adding, "My job consisted of organizing events for all the residents who live around me and mak[ing] sure that they are comfortable,"
Bernier purses her lips tightly and lets out a sigh after she lists the responsibilities of an RA. While her job may be stressful, she needs it to deal with the staggering economy.
A sophomore in the School of Arts and Sciences, Archer, also looks for creative ways to battle rising costs. At the age of 16, Archer created his own design business, Complex Fashions.
"I was responsible for looking for talented designers, looking for investors and marketing," Archer said.
The young entrepreneur spent all of his free time establishing his business. When asked if the economy has affected him, Archer tilts his head and gives a nervous chuckle. Although Complex Fashions was bringing in cash, Archer was forced to shut down because of an employee's misstep. Now, Archer works approximately eleven hours a week at Rutgers Telefund.
"I make calls to parents, friends and alumni of the University and convince them to help support our school by making pledges," Archer said. Telefund is a job Archer feels good about, as a large portion of the money received through Telefund goes towards scholarships for students.
Before Rutgers' students can begin to worry about finding a job after graduation, they need to figure out how to earn money while still in school. Until the recession begins to lift, students across the nation will continue to mobilize and draw on their resourcefulness to make it through the economic crisis.
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