The University of California and the California State University systems took steps to raise tuition for the sixth time in seven years this past Wednesday, May 14. Hundreds of students from the 10 UC campuses gathered outside of UC Los Angeles during the UC Board of Regents’ meeting to protest the rise in tuition fees.
The protest was supported by a slideshow of personal stories from struggling students created by the UC Student Association, and a speech from California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi on behalf of struggling students. Despite these actions, the regents voted 7-2 to raise tuition and fees by 19 percent for graduate students and nearly 8 percent for undergraduate students, pushing annual undergraduate tuition from $2,772 to $3,048.
Following the vote, police guards began to encroach on the remaining protesters, who showed their displeasure with the decision. The students chanted, “Regents, regents, can’t you see, you are creating poverty,” and “Whose university? Our university!”
“This is the frustration of the students. We are not being heard,” said Joshua Galan, a fourth-year at UCLA, before he was arrested. “This is the only power that we have.”
Along with Galan, 16 other students were arrested. The arrests occurred after the regents had left the building and all students underwent a mandatory search and wand procedure before entering the building.
Graduate students will be affected most by the rise in tuition with a 19 percent increase in fees. This includes a $60 surcharge to cover a court-ordered multimillion-dollar tuition refund to professional school graduate students, due to a lawsuit against the regents for failing to abide by the legal system of California financial voting systems.
Tuition at CSU’s 23 campuses will rise for undergraduates by $276 a year to $3,048. The total does not include campus fees, which were on average $749 per student in the 2007-08 academic year.
John Williams, a second-year UC Santa Cruz student, pleaded with the Regents to understand that they are raising fees at a time when they continue to pay high salaries.
“If we actually cared about the students and workers on this campus, then we wouldn’t be getting presidents who cost $655,000 a year in salary and extra bonuses. Instead we would be getting presidents who have connections to students and workers,” Williams said.
UC San Diego second-year student Gracelynne West asked the Regents for compassion as she told them about her struggle to try to put herself through school.
“I am holding two jobs that are nearly 30 hours a week, and my loan debt continues to grow and is now over $20,000,” West said. “It is hard to find time to be a student and focus on academics while struggling to stay in this university financially.”
West describes the plight experienced by the majority of students who borrow loans to attend the universities. On average, working-class and middle-class students graduate with more than $21,000 in debt.
Many of the students held yellow signs, courtesy of the organization Tuition Relief Now, showing the amounts of debt they face as a result of their tuition costs. Only Lt. Gov. Garamendi and UC Regent Eddie Island voted against the increase; all others voted in favor of the new measure.
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