SGA president represents students in state, federally

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SGA president represents students in state, federally

Olivia Barfield

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While most students have been continuing their normal routines as the state’s budget crisis is discussed at the special session, Marc Calhoun has been absent from campus.

No, he isn’t too depressed to go to class because the budget crisis could delay his graduation. Calhoun, Student Government Association president and senior biology major, has spent the last two weeks representing higher education students to both state and federal leaders. He has spent time in Baton Rouge and Washington D.C.

Calhoun is serving as a representative because he thinks that Louisiana students deserve more than what they’ve been getting. He thinks that it’s important that students speak up to avoid potentially detrimental future cuts, so he is doing his part. According to Calhoun, this is his opportunity to help others achieve their aspirations.

“I don’t want to be the person who makes excuses, but the person who makes impacts, and it feels great being able to do that for students who are chasing their dreams,” Calhoun said.

CJ Nash, junior marketing and risk management major, is in SGA and is proud that ULM is being represented nationally on issues as important as higher education.

“I believe the students and higher education deserve the opportunity to be heard. Having Marc go to D.C. gave ULM an opportunity to voice our opinions and our needs from Louisiana,” Nash said.

Calhoun is a member of the Council of Student Body Presidents (COSBP), which is made up of the SGA presidents at Louisiana’s colleges and universities.

Calhoun said that his job as SGA president is to represent ULM students, while his role as a council member of COSBP is to represent all students concerned with Louisiana higher education.

“My role consists of being one of a few voices who stand for our students all over Louisiana who look at higher education in a positive way: the students of not only now, but those of our future,” Calhoun said.

In Feb., COSBP was able to organize a higher education rally for Louisiana students to come together on the steps of the state capital to pressure the state’s Legislature to create solutions for the budget crisis and prevent further budget cuts.

Since 2008, Louisiana has cut funding to higher education more than any other state. The state’s budget deficit is so huge that last month some universities were worried that they may have to shut down.

Since the rally, Calhoun and the rest of COSBP have met with Gov. Edwards to discuss the higher education budget in further detail.

“We got a more personal feel for the steps needed to move us in a better direction,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun said that the governor spoke on how the legislature needs to find a balance between student and state payments for higher education.

In 2008, state taxpayers provided 60 percent of funding for the state’s public universities. Now, the students must pay more with the state covering less than a quarter of costs.

In Washington D.C., Calhoun said that he got the opportunity to look at the “federal aspect” of Louisiana’s situation by speaking with Louisiana senators and congressmen.

Calhoun said that traveling to Washington D.C. was a good move for COSBP because it shows that the budget crisis transcends state boundaries.

“Although this is a state level situation, their opinion does count for a lot, so being able to hear them speak positively about higher education put a smile on our faces knowing there are people helping us with this fight we so desperately need to win, not only for us, but for our future,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun said that the main focus of all of all the meetings he’s been involved in have been only higher education.

“This is at the top of the list and our main focus at the time until a decision is reached,” Calhoun said.

Allison Odgen, a junior secondary education major, said she was relieved to find that ULM was represented by Calhoun both nationally and federally.

“I chose an in-state university because it was so much cheaper than going out of state. Now, I have never been happier that I will be done with college in a year!” Odgen said.

Odgen grows  increasingly nervous about the solutions that legislators have promised to make during the special session, which ends March 9.