I am a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, majoring in human development and family studies with a minor in social work. After college I plan on working for local or state government as a licensed social worker.
At least, that was my plan.
Coming into college, I knew I wanted to help people in my career and be an active participant in bettering the quality of life in my state. After four years at UW-Stout, I have acquired approximately $45,000 in student loan debt. I expected to make $20,000-$25,000 a year out of college. Although the pay would be low, I knew I would be provided with good benefits and a comfortable retirement.
If it passes, Gov. Scott Walker's deficit recovery bill may make me reconsider my plans. I believe this is true for many students across the state.
Everyone knows that state employees are grossly underpaid and understaffed already, due to budget cuts. If state employees' collective bargaining rights are taken away, I may need to work in a different field just to pay the bills.
UW-Stout students and faculty have been rallying and speaking out in opposition to the bill all week. Demonstrations have been dramatic. Students will stand up in the middle of class, say a few words and then walk out. It's great to see everyone come together to stand up for their rights.
Although classes haven't been formally canceled at Stout, many professors have encouraged students to attend campus activities during class time. Protestors can be heard from across campus. They are fighting for a cause that directly affects thousands of students' futures throughout the state.
I hope Gov. Walker will be willing to listen to the students of Wisconsin and let us see a little light at the end of this tunnel. We value the generous contributions that educators and other employees of the state have provided for the community, and believe that it is our moral obligation to fight to maintain the value of these contributions. I understand that these are trying times; however; this bill has the potential to drastically compromise the future careers of many students.
After paying a great deal to learn the professional skills we need to educate and support our neighbors, students are asking for very little in return. This bill won't only affect our ability to receive a top-quality public college education; it will also affect our ability to do the same for subsequent generations.
Jessica Fehlen, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, is a source in MPR's Public Insight Network.