Students protest tuition increase

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(Ashlyn Ramirez / Ashley Haley)

Students chanted “No cuts! No fees! No corporate universities!” as they rallied across the Cal State Fullerton campus while the CSU board of trustees met to discuss possible tuition increases in Long Beach Tuesday morning.

The proposed tuition increase could potentially reach $270 for resident undergraduates, said CSU spokesperson Elizabeth Chapin in an emailed statement.

Student organizations including Students for Quality Education (SQE), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (M.E.Ch.A.) and others hosted the rally at 10:15 a.m. in front of the Humanities and Social Science building to allow students a platform to express their opinions.

Rally speaker Leslie Molina told the crowd that she was close to dropping out last semester because of the cost of tuition. Molina, a Chicano studies minor, attended school and worked two part-time jobs to make ends meet.

“We want a fully-funded CSU system. This tuition increase is insane,” Molina said.

The tuition hike would generate about $77.5 million in revenue for the CSU system, according to the Press Telegram.

However, Chapin said in the email that the tuition increase would not “affect the CSU’s neediest students,” who are the 62 percent that fall into the family-income category of $70,000 income or lower. The tuition costs for these students are covered by grants and waivers.

“We’re tired of paying so much for tuition and not understanding why the costs keep going up when we’re not getting anything different,” said SQE member Sarah Ellis at the rally.

During the board meeting, Executive Vice Chancellor Steve Relyea informed the board of trustees that a tuition increase would allow the university to hire more staff to teach the growing population of students. Students would be able to graduate at a faster rate if there were more classes available to them, Relyea said.

Chancellor Timothy P. White, who oversees all 23 campuses in the CSU system, also heard the grievances of students like Cal State San Marcos graduate student John Walsh.

Walsh said that this particular generation of students carries a burden that no others have in regards to getting a higher education.

“Student debt is now over a trillion dollars in this country … and we are the ones paying for it,” Walsh said.

Walsh isn’t the only student worried about how government funding has dwindled away from universities. During the rally and the meeting, many students expressed they struggle to make ends meet and adding a new bill is “baffling” to them.

“To us, it means finding a way to pay for books, finding another way (to pay) for parking, not booking a flight home on breaks and it will take away from study time and involvement on campuses,” said Cal State Dominguez Hills student Elizabeth Cabal during the meeting. “You see, to us, it’s not just a $270 fee increase. We see a door open to a cycle of systemic exploitation for programs you say are meant for students.”

Chapin said that Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal is set to distribute less than half of what the CSU needs to fund the system.

“If the state does not fully fund the CSU’s proposed 2017-18 support budget, the CSU board of trustees will need to consider difficult options, including increasing tuition,” Chapin said in an email.

CSU trustees and leaders will continue to advocate for increased state funding in Sacramento until the final state budget is released in June, Chapin said in an email.

The CSU board of trustees plan to vote on the tuition increase in March.

Ian Schwieterman, Hayley M. Slye and Athena Sobhan contributed to this story.

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