Students and faculty march for higher education affordability

Students and faculty march for higher education affordability

Speeches, songs and chants of “Whose future? Our future.” reverberated throughout the state capital on Thursday, as hundreds of community college students and faculty marched for increased education funding and reduced tuition. 

“There was camaraderie and it was a really festive place,” political science professor Denise Robb said. “For me, the best thing was seeing students, for the first time, taking the future into their own hands.”

Robb was one of approximately 80 Pierce College students and faculty who flew to Sacramento on March 7 as part of the “March in March.” The main focuses of the march were to call on state lawmakers to make higher education more accessible and affordable, fund affordable housing and commit to environmental justice initiatives. 

“I got very politically active this past year and I wanted to do my part,” journalism major Matthew Stewart said. “I care about this as a student and lots of these issues involve students. I also care about teachers and I have teachers in my family.”

The participants voiced their support for State Assembly Bill 252, which would divest state employee pensions from the fossil fuel industry.

“We marched for affordable tuition, for divesting from fossil fuels, for affordable housing since so many of our students can’t afford to pay rent,” Robb said. “These are important issues.”

With a potential budget deficit within the Los Angeles Community College District approaching, several of the march’s attendees said this event was especially important.

“We know that the state is facing some budget difficulties and there might be some budget cuts,” psychology professor Angela Belden said. “We’re saying ‘don’t cut education.’ There was a lot of solidarity and it felt really amazing to be with people out there lobbying for the same things.”

The event was organized by a partnership of several organizations including the Student Senate for California Community Colleges, the California Federation of Teachers and AFT College Staff Guild Local 1521. According to Robb, the march took several months of planning.

Beyond the experience of advocating for issues he cares about, political science major Marcelo Cabrera said he also valued meeting and bonding with other community college students. Cabrera even had the opportunity to go inside the California State Capitol building.

“We made our own posters, which was really enjoyable, and we discussed with people from other campuses and worked together,” Cabrera said. “The marching was really powerful. We even had some random people who were just on the sidewalk see what we were saying and join in on the march.”

According to the professors who went, plans are already being made to hold the march again next year. 

“To see that number of college students and faculty so energized and willing to use their voices, it was really heartwarming,” Belden said. 

Brandon Harrell contributed to this story.

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