LEARNING THEY’LL HAVE TO PAY MORE TOSTAY IN SCHOOL, CALIFORNIA COLLEGE STUDENTS EXPRESS THEIR RAGE.
by Emily Kelley for HUSTLER Magazine – June 2010
Uncertainty continues to reign at California’s public colleges and universities. Many students may drop out—but not because they loathe lectures, writing term papers and boning up for exams.In July 2009, after lawmakers had slashed education budgets statewide by hundreds of millions of dollars, the California State University and community college systems raised tuition fees 20% and 30% respectively. Then, just before Thanksgiving, the University of California announced a 32% tuition-fee increase for all ten UC campuses. Of course, students were outraged, and they demanded to be heard.
Back in July, hundreds of CSU students gathered outside the chancellor’s office in Long Beach to adamantly voice their disapproval. By late November, UC students were echoing their sentiments.
“We did have several protests which were organized over Facebook and had quite large turnouts,” recalled Jon Seibert, 21, a chemical engineering major at UC San Diego. There were also walkouts, sit-ins and even building takeovers at several other UC campuses, including Berkeley, Santa Cruz and UCLA. But it’s not just higher fees that are angering students and faculty members alike. “It upsets me that tuition is going up,” complained Gina Alessi, 20, a graphic design student at CSU Fullerton, “but at the same time they are cutting classes left and right and mandating furlough days [for faculty and staffers]. Why are we paying more and getting less?”
The answer is simple. CSU, the nation’s largest university system with 23 campuses, was hit by a $584-million budget cut. As for the University of California, state allocations were reduced by $637 million for the 2010-11school year. By increasing tuition, it expects to raise about $505 million to help offset the money lost.
Meanwhile, CSU and UC students have been forced to deal with the downside of the budget cuts. “The number of classes offered has been diminished, and funding for several student associations has been severely cut, “said Seibert, a member of the UC San Diego crew team. “Several of the local crew teams have lost funding, which affects the amount of racing my team will be able to do this year.”
Although students at California’s community colleges have had their tuition fees increased by only $6 per unit, they are also impacted by the budget cuts. “A friend of mine just told me that he tried to pick up classes at three different community colleges and was shocked to learn that all the classes he wanted were filled,” said Anibal Ortiz, 23, a Pierce College communications major who hopes to transfer to CSU Fullerton.
“The way this budget is coming down, some things are already targeted,” added Dr. Joy McCaslin, Pierce’s interim president, in an interview with this reporter. “The state chancellor’s office is asking us to reduce classes and our student services. We’re having to cut programs—we’re not eliminating anything.”But not just students are suffering; so are faculty members. “I think the furlough days have really upset a lot of people,” said Alessi. Under the CSU chancellor’s plan, nearly all of the system’s 47,000 employees will be forced to take two furlough days a month along with a 10% pay cut.
There have not been any recent mass protests, and some students wondered if they’d been effective. “I feel they have opened a lot of eyes to what is happening but are not solving the problem,” said Lorna Brennan, 21, a nursing student at CSU Chico.
Seibert understood why students exercised their right to protest but also acknowledged a grim reality: “The decision [to raise tuition fees] is necessary due to economic conditions, not driven by greed or caused by state finances being squandered on useless earmark projects. The protests were never going to have an effect. The situation is unfortunate, and I doubt many that approved [budget cuts]were happy about it.”
As the old saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn. But for cash-strapped California college students, it’s high noon, and the sun isn’t shining.
Emily Kelley, an award-winning high school journalist from Paso Robles, California, was accepted into CSU Northridge but enrolled at Pierce College to save money. Now a sophomore, she is News Editor of Pierce’s student newspaper, The Roundup, and a blogger at Internships.com.
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