On April 20, the University of California Student Association sponsored the California Statewide Walkout for students to demonstrate against budget cuts and fee increases. Students throughout the UC system, the California State University system and community colleges walked out of their classes at noon to show their discontent regarding the cost, accessibility and quality of education. UC Irvine students gathered at the flagpoles to listen to speeches and sign petitions.
Facing budget cuts, increases in tuition and less funding toward financial aid, students demonstrated to show that they’re frustrated with paying more for their education while still seeing no change in quality.
Kristi Soliman, campus organizing director for UCSA, stated her thoughts on the current budget situation.
‘We’re here to show the governor and state legislators that we care and that we’re not going to take the budget cuts,’ Soliman said. ‘We demand no more fee increases and a fully funded financial aid.’
Carlos Feliciano, board chair of UCSA and a third-year criminology, law and society major, expressed his opinions regarding the increased costs of UC tuition and how students can contribute to lower tuition costs.
‘We can’t take it anymore. [The state has] been cutting us and raising our fees every single year,’ Feliciano said. ‘Last year the state raised our fees 14 percent, this year 8 percent. We have to stand up, we have to do something. Sign the petition, get out there and talk to your politicians. They need to represent you, they need to support higher education. We can make a difference if we all work together.’
In addition to increased tuition, students complained about the fact that funding for financial aid has not been increased. According to Vera Konkankit, campaign manager for the Associated Students of UCI, there is a significant problem with increasing tuition without increasing financial aid.
‘Our tuition fees are increasing, but our financial aid hasn’t increased to cover it,’ Konkankit said. ‘So even if you’re fully funded right now, you may not be [funded in the future] because the UC system does not increase financial aid. Unless you have an outside scholarship, you’re not going to get fully funded.’
Speakers at UCI’s walkout talked about how they are unsure as to how their money is distributed and used, since many feel that their dollars aren’t going toward their education.
‘I just don’t understand where this money is going,’ said Jamie Arcinas, a second-year international studies major who participated in the demonstration. ‘I don’t see any improvements on our education.’
Brandon Espinosa, a second-year biological sciences major who also supported the walkout, expressed his unhappiness with the state’s position on higher education.
‘I think it’s ridiculous that such little focus is being put on education here in California,’ Espinosa said.
While it is true that most students are against budget cuts and higher education costs, not all students were willing to walk out of their classrooms to participate in the demonstration, according to Lisha Maddox, a member of ASUCI’s legislative council.
‘This young lady actually asked me, ‘Well, I’m paying $5,000 for my classes, why should I skip them?” Maddox said. ‘And I told her, ‘If you don’t skip them, then next year you’ll have to pay $6,000 for a quality of classes that are going to stay the same.”
The walkout had approximately 30 student supporters; however, many more support the cause. Brittany Streets, a first-year political science major, did not participate in the demonstration and gave her reasons.
‘I am upset with the tuition increase like everyone else,’ Streets said. ‘However I couldn’t walk out of a very important class. I think there are many other students who can relate to the same situation. … But it is sad to say that apathy does exist. Students are against tuition increases, but they don’t care to do anything about it.’
On the other hand, many other students stated that they would have participated in the walkout had there been more publicity of the event throughout campus.
Christina Murray, a first-year psychology major, said that she had no prior knowledge that any demonstration against budget cuts and fee increases would be held.
‘I didn’t hear anything about it, and I didn’t see any posters or handouts along Ring Road,’ Murray said. ‘I think a bigger effort should be made to publicize such an event and to inform students what a ‘walkout’ is. There are so many people who oppose the [budget] cuts and costs of our education. I definitely would have participated had I known about it.’
According to Soliman, the next protest will take place at the state capital after the UC’s fiscal budget is finalized by the state. This protest will take place in May.
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