- The Washington Times - Monday, December 9, 2002

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) Virginia Tech students coping with crowded classes, fewer course offerings and higher tuition because of state budget cuts should demonstrate their frustration in the voting booth, university President Charles Steger said.
"I think next November you need to go to the polls. That's where our problem is," Mr. Steger told about 100 students at a question-and-answer session about the university's budget woes last week.
All 140 General Assembly seats are up for election in November.
Virginia Tech's state funding was reduced by more than $61 million, or 23 percent, this fiscal year and $72 million next year by officials seeking to plug a nearly $5 billion hole in the state budget.
Gov. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, and the Republican-led General Assembly are expected to cut an additional $1 billion from state agency budgets early next year to offset lower-than-expected tax revenues.
In response, Virginia Tech has increased tuition this school year by more than $1,000 for in-state undergraduates and by more than $1,800 for out-of-state undergraduates. Other state universities also have raised tuition.
Virginia Tech also cut 270 positions including about 100 teaching faculty and reduced course offerings, raising the possibility that some students will be unable to complete course work within four years.
"You may have to work harder and you may have to work a little longer," Tech Provost Mark McNamee said.
Those prospects prompted a strong reaction from the university's students.
"We don't know what to do," said Takiyah Amin, a graduate student in arts administration. "We don't feel like we have any power here."
Mr. Steger and Mr. McNamee urged students to contact their legislators and help fight what they called a negative attitude among lawmakers toward higher education.
Mr. Steger said raising tuition was the university's only option to preserve academic instruction and maintain the institution's comprehensive course catalog.
"The people who think we have extra fat in the system they do not know the system," Mr. Steger said.
"And you can help refute that and get them out of office."

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