Students rally against fee hikes

Shweta Saraswat

Rallies organized by the Students for California’s Future againstsuggested cuts in education funding took place across the state Monday.

According to the SFCF, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposedbudget plan for the 2008-09 fiscal year would cut $483 million from community college general funds, as well as hundreds of millions from University of California and California State University programs.

“Everyone should understand that (California’s) amazing education system is why our economy is one of the biggest in the nation,” argued Stephanie Chan, 20, who is one of the SFCF coordinators and an English student at U.C. Berkeley.

“Education is something we cannot afford to have suffer; takingaway from that will be counterproductive and detrimental to thestate,” she said.

Sallay Manah, Social-Cultural Committee chair of the Pierce College Associated Students Organization,claims that the budget cuts can hurt Pierce students directly.

“The Cal Grants will be gone and financial aid will be cut (as a result),” she said. “Students who may go to a community college because it is a cheaper option may not be able to afford transferring to a UC without aid.”

It is for this reason that the Student Senate for California Community Colleges, the University of California Student Association and the California State Student Association joined forces in February 2008 to form the SFCF.

The organization’s goals include promoting student involvement in state-level legislation and encouraging governmental investment in education, according to their Web site.

“We’ve all come together because nothing is going to affect everyone in the state as much as the budget,” said Chan, who called the coalition’s operations an “amazing collaborative process.”

“Each organization brings its own special flair and caters to a different demographic,” said Chan.

“If they take money away from one, it hurts the entire system as a whole, so the proposed cuts will be quite devastating for entire educational system.”

Troy Carter, communications officer for the SSCCC, attends Sacramento City College and finds it necessary that community college organizations interact with their university-level counterparts.

“We realize that it’s not just community colleges that are going to be affected by the budget, and we realize that community college students often times become CSU and UC students,” Carter said. “Together, our voice will be louder.”

Pierce ASO President Tessa Moss, who has traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak with the U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings on matters concerning community colleges across the nation, encourages Pierce students to get involved in demonstrations.

“Students should really try to educate themselves on things like why taxes are so high and why the interest on student loans is so high, and then provide their personal input,” Moss said. “It honestly makes such a big difference.”

The SFCF hosted demonstrations in eight cities including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, and San Diego on Monday.

The L.A. march, which was led by the UCSA, began at Pershing Square in downtown and continued to the governor’s L.A. office on South Spring Street.

The SFCF members encourage students who could not attend these particular rallies to make their voice heard in other ways.

“E-mail your assembly members,that is a great first step,” Carter said. “Tell them your story, how community college helped you and make them understand that budget cuts may force students to not realize their full potential.”

A “Flunk the Budget” rally, hosted by the California State Parent Teacher Association, will take place tomorrow at the State Capitol in Sacramento.

Several other events are scheduled to take place across the state in the weeks leading up to the governor’s May budget revision.

The events, many of which will take place in Sacramento, include protest bus tours and demonstrations.

Whatever students do, Chan hopes to utilize the “power in numbers” of the 3.2 million college students in California to “show lawmakers that (the budget cuts) will affect us in a bigger way than we can imagine.”

“It’s just the beginning,” Chan said.

More information on upcoming events can be found at the SFCF Web site, www.studentsforcalifornia.org.

California students arrive at the Reagan State Building in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, while participating in a march organized by the Students for California’s Future protesting the proposed $1 billion in budget cuts for higher education. “Nearly 200 students” marched to protest outside Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office, according to Jennifer Knox, an organizer with UCSA. ()