Bright neon flowers and humongous brown oak trees greet anyone that steps foot on Montclair State University. The botanical scenery and brand new white buildings attract thousands of students from different backgrounds across the country, including those who are student athletes. The lime green turf sports fields and metallic bleachers are a dream for Montclair State athletes.
On the other hand, there is one nightmare that many in the athletic community say they are looking forward to waking up from and that is having Chris Christie as New Jersey’s governor.
The governor’s race has come down to the Republican candidate Kim Guadagno and Democrat candidate Phil Murphy. Although many of the athletes shared that they are not following the New Jersey governor’s race, many agreed that current governor Christie is a disaster and that huge changes and improvements need to be made by the next governor.
According to data released by the Passaic County Clerk, 1998 residents from the Heights, Blanton Hall, the Village, Sinatra Hall and Hawks Crossings were registered to vote at the Machuga polling station during the 2016 presidential election. About 38 percent of students registered to vote there actually voted.
This year, the governor of New York came up with a solution to help students who are suffering from expensive tuition costs by passing the 2018 State Budget. The Excelsior Scholarship is the first accessible college program to allow middle-class families and individuals making up to $125,000 per year to attend college tuition-free at all CUNY and SUNY two and four year colleges in New York State.
As long as students are residents of New York, take 30 credits per calendar year (including winter and Summer sessions) and plan to live and work in New York following graduation for the length of time they participate in the scholarship program, then they are eligible.
Sophomore athletic trainer Kiara Ruiz addressed the issue of the extreme expenses of New Jersey college tuition, comparing it with the cost of New York State CUNY and SUNY schools.
“The next New Jersey governor should give students who live in New Jersey free tuition,” said Ruiz.
A member of Montclair State’s softball team, Amanda Lombardi brought up the on going construction on major roadways such as the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike. She emphasized that taxes are unevenly distributed and there is a lack of state funding towards education.
“People are getting taxed left and right for funds such as rebuilding the streets and roads of New Jersey, however the same roadways have had construction for months with no progression,” said the justice studies major with a minor in history.
During Christie’s term, funding for public schools has consistently caused tension within his office and education advocates. After entering office in 2010, Christie cut about $1 billion in education spending, according to Politifact, to help eliminate the gaps in New Jersey’s budget. After making this budget cut, a lawsuit was enacted against New Jersey because the cuts put lower-income students at a disadvantage.
“Programs and clubs are being cut from high schools and middle schools, which makes me wonder what the taxes are really going towards,” said Lombardi.
Education seems to be a crucial topic for Montclair State students. As a result of budget cuts, there are teachers who have to supply their students with classroom items using their personal money because they are not funded by the state. These items vary from crayons in kindergarten classes to notebooks in middle school classes.
Montclair State baseball player Jesse Baiza also brought up a critical dilemma pertaining to lack of funding. Baiza wants to see the governor implement better strategies to help with homeless veterans.
“As a veteran myself, I think it is crucial for the next governor to do more for our veterans than what is being done right now,” said Baiza.
Baiza recommends that the next governor establish more housing in lower income areas.
“If the governor passed this bill, it would matter and make a huge difference,” said Baiza.
This story is part of the Voting Block series and was produced in collaboration with The Record, NJ Spotlight, WHYY, WNYC, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, the Center for Cooperative Media and New America Media. To read all the stories in this series, visit VotingBlockNJ.com.