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Students to the Governor: 'Education is not a priority'

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UCLA's campus. Photo by _Gene_ via Flickr

UCLA's campus. Photo by _Gene_ via Flickr
The state budget has finally been passed, and as a result billions of dollars have been cut from the coffers that help support education at all levels. Included are cuts to the large University of California and California State University systems, necessitating the respective campus network leaders to push through their own budgets cuts that include layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts, fee hikes, enrollment caps, and decreased resources. Despite student and faculty protests, the UC and CSU passed the proposals on the table that aim to stave off the shortfall.

The University of California Student Association's Lucero Chavez, President of the UCSA, released the following statement this afternoon in response to the State Budgethas released their reaction to the budget, and the message is grim:

“Education is not a priority: that is the message the State of California is sending California families. While the state's representatives debated in Sacramento, students continue to wonder whether or not they will be able to afford a public higher education, or if they even have a space at all this fall at UC or CSU, today they no longer wonder.
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Chavez continues:

“Students and parents are working hard this summer in a dwindling economy trying to save what they can to offset fee hikes and financial aid cuts. Preserving the Cal Grant Program, which supports 143,000 students with financial aid need, was a step in supporting students, but much work still needs to be done for the future of public education. The Governor and the legislature cannot keep excusing these detrimental cuts by blaming the economic crisis: with fees skyrocketing over 100% in the past 7 years and Cal Grant funding remaining stagnant, these new cuts are rapidly accelerating the state’s already robust effort to privatize our public universities. Many hard working UC students will still face the reality of working more hours, taking out more loans, or deferring their plans for higher education in a society where a post secondary degree is a prerequisite for being competitive in the job market. “Students continue to pay more for less, struggling to make ends meet to pay for an education with increased costs and less return, and many others will be prohibited from even applying because of the desolating sticker shock that this budget is encouraging. This harmful cycle will only worsen as California higher education is de-prioritized and access is deterred from the state’s middle and low income families during this economic crisis.

“The budget crisis that the state is facing has forced the state to cut the UC budget by unprecedented figures: a $2.8 billion cut to higher education has resulted in a 25% cut to enrollment, with many major and student support programs being cut across the system. These cuts reveal the failure of the Governor and the state legislature in fulfilling their responsibility of ensuring that the UC remains a public benefit for the state’s students and their families.

“The UC Regents approved a 9.3% fee increase at the May Regents Meeting, raising the total cost of a UC education to over $25,000. This is just the tip of the iceberg with detrimental consequences followed by the recent budget release. Students at the California State University System are facing a 20% fee increase to save the Cal Grant.

“In a time when more people are reapplying to school, the legislature and the Governor have neglected their duties to the citizens of California, and are reiterating that education in California has to be sacrificed in order to alleviate their mismanagement of public funds. These increases and cuts are one of the most horrific cases of inadequate budgetary “solutions,” and are dismantling public higher education for all of California’s citizens.

“Students across the state depended on the leaders in the Senate and the Assembly to come to an agreement over the state budget, one that does not balance the budget on the backs of students. Students want the legislature and the Governor to understand the daily struggle of working class students who bear the brunt of the continuing budget crisis because of their own families' inability to contribute to their education. UC students have parents who are facing furloughs, layoffs, and foreclosures while trying to put multiple children through school. In this economic crisis and now with this unprecedented budget, it will be near impossible for families to recover from the debt and the startlingly high costs of the University system.

“California is going through a devastating economic time, with many crucial programs and services being cut, but in order to ensure the future sustainability, growth, and reputation as a driving economic force for the state of California, public education must once again be made a priority. With access to higher education dissolving to one of the most destructive state budgets ever, it is obvious that the state needs to make a long term solution for California’s students and their families.”

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