By Nicole Ouimette

Students for Affordable, Accessible and Valuable Education (SAVE) is a club at Holyoke Commu-nity College (HCC). It was formed in September 2011 out of a need for a more involved student body to address the overwhelming concerns of the inaccessibility and unaffordability of public higher education. SAVE addressed the national and statewide student debt crisis during a “Student Speak Out” event at HCC in October 2011 and hopes to continue the hard work of getting students involved on campus and in the community during the upcoming semesters.

SAVE was started with the help of HCC Anthropology professor Vanessa Martinez and student Francheska Morales. All of us felt that there needed to be a stronger activist presence on HCC’s campus. We knew that starting SAVE was the best way to discuss the concerns of student debt and the rising costs of public higher education. PHENOM made SAVE possible by supplying multiple resources and support from board members.

Starting a club on a community college campus is one of the hardest things to do, but SAVE showed that with motivated and dedicated students as well as help from faculty, forming a new club could come with great success. Veronique Leroy, coordinator of HCC’s Student Activities helped us get a spot at the Club Fair, which is held each Fall semester. The Club Fair was a success, with over 40 people showing interest in SAVE. Many students voiced their concerns about student debt. Debt is the underlying concern of public higher education costs, which is important to keep in mind when forming a club like SAVE on any campus.

At the “Student Speak Out” event, students were free to voice their opinions and concerns surrounding the student debt crisis after a short dialogue among representatives of PHENOM, the community and HCC students and faculty. The event was a huge success, with over 120 people in a room that only fit 80. Some faculty brought their classes to take part in the discussion about student debt.

Getting faculty support is very important for organizing on campus as they have many resources, such as students, access to other clubs/organizations and can help get one connected to the administration.
Next semester, SAVE hopes to organize two more events, plug into PHENOM’s statewide campaigns, and create an even more visible presence on campus. Events like a student debt teach-in or a dialogue on free education are only two ideas that SAVE is thinking of pursuing. As president of SAVE, I am hoping that we can be the catalyst for more community college students to form a student-active and faculty-supported presence as the struggle for more affordable public higher education continues.