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Power Breakfast: Schools Against Tuition Hikes

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"There's about 350 here...representing very large numbers of students back in their states," says Lidsay McCluskey, president of the United States Student Association.

Today the group is wrapping up its annual grassroots legislative conference, where the number one concern on people's minds is:

"The severe increases in cost of public colleges and universities that we're expecting due to state budget cuts," McCulskey says.

They want to draw some attention to this, especially as Congress negotiates proposed cuts to federal student aid programs like Pell grants and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants.

"At a time when students are being so hard-hit at the state level we're really here to call on our federally elected officials to preserve higher education funding in the federal budget - both in this year's CR and in the FY 2012 budget," she says.

The walls of the ivory tower have not shielded students from the harsh reality that money's tight. And that in the current fiscal environment, education is hardly the only thing on the list of the worthy-yet-vulnerable.

"It's not our job to balance the budget; it's the job of our elected officials to do that," McCluskey says. "However, we do have serious concerns about how the budget is prioritized right now... Clearly, we believe that investments in education are extremely strategic both for our economy and for our democracy, so we think they need to be getting a bigger piece of the pie."

The students plan to be at Upper Senate Park across from the Capitol by 10am for a rally. Then they're off to lobby their elected officials. Or staffers, to be precise. Congress' calendar came out after this year's legislative conference was booked.

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