“Amidst chants of ‘We Shall Overcome,’ the University of California Board of Regents, except for the only voting student member Jesse Bernal, voted to increase student fees by 32 percent, or $2,500, yesterday at UCLA. This drastic increase triples the total cost of a UC education from a decade ago. The vote was met with a torrent of protest by those whom the decision directly affects. As an alumnus of UCLA and former board member of the University of California Student Association (UCSA), I was inspired by the coalition of students, faculty, and staff across the state who proclaimed to the nation that they would not accept divestment in higher education without a fight. The United States Student Association is in solidarity with the University of California Student Association, and all protesters, as they demonstrate the critical importance of student/worker solidarity in organizing against egregious fee hikes.
“While the increased cost presents an insurmountable barrier to college access for thousands of students and potential students, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Nationwide, states are balancing budgets on the backs of students, slashing higher education funding and raising tuition and fees. Students need financial relief now more than ever, which is why the Senate must pass a companion bill to the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (HR 3221). This bill makes the largest higher education investment in American history by eliminating wasteful government subsidies to banks and lenders and allocating the estimated $87 billion in savings over the next 10 years into low-interest, secure federal aid. USSA calls on Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) to take a leadership role in passing student aid reform.
“Reforming the loan industry will certainly help students, but this is an issue that runs deeper than financial aid. Yesterday’s vote is indicative of a larger culture in which higher education is viewed as little more than a bloated discretionary budget with distant payoffs, and students as perpetual revenue streams for deficit reduction. University leaders complain that state legislatures do not appropriate enough funds, lawmakers say tuition hikes are local decisions, and neither takes responsibility. Meanwhile, students drop out or are deterred from even applying to college and faculty and staff receive furloughs or get laid off. It is a vicious cycle that will cease only when we elect leaders who prioritize higher education in policy making, not just campaign speeches. Students must take the amazing vitality from protests and marches and direct that energy into passing student aid reform and electoral organizing. Although the 2010 election may seem distant, we need to begin organizing our peers to elect those who will legislate with the prudence to see past quick budget savings and make real investments in the country’s future.
“If California has taught us anything, it is that the amount of fee hikes states and regents will impose on students to mitigate budget shortfalls is limitless. It is time for a national student movement to elect a government that recognizes the lasting value of higher education and has the perseverance to legislate on those values, regardless of the economic or political climate.”