Students trying to save the Meriden branch of Middlesex Community College from closing down are receiving support from the people who could keep it open by law: their state legislators.
State Sen. Dante Bartolomeo told a rally outside the Meriden Center that 647 students take classes in Meriden, and keeping them there is a priority for her.
"If I had the opportunity to go to Middletown I would, but I'm not able to," said student Genesis Robles. "It really puts a strain on all of us – a lot of parents as well because they have kids."
Bartolomeo asked students at the rally how many worked full time and how many have to take care of family at home, to underscore how crucial it is to keep classes in Meriden.
"We're not giving up," said the student body president, Tony Washington. "Whatever I have to do, whatever it takes, I plan on doing it."
Earlier, college president Anna Wasecha told a forum, "These are lousy choices but these are the least lousy choices that we can make."
She said the system Gov. Dannel Malloy created in 2011 by merging the community colleges and state universities "hasn't had the public support it needed in order to operate."
His first appointees to run the system had to resign after trying to give themselves raises.
Since then, the state government has held down subsidies and tuition has increased each year.
Wasecha is pushing for funding from the legislature that Malloy proposes cutting. She said she would also be following common practice among the colleges and state universities to save money by keeping vacant positions unfilled.
"The building is still leased. The lease is not up magically June 30, so we're trying to figure out how much cost savings there would be. We think it's minimal," said State Rep. Buddy Altobello, a Democrat from Meriden.
He said the legislature could mandate keeping the Meriden center open, although, he said, "We haven't rattled that saber yet."
With two more months to come up with a budget, legislators are hearing from supporters of all kinds of programs facing Malloy's proposals.
Altobello predicted the legislature would take even more time, not finishing work, he said, until Aug. 22.