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Monday, March 25 , 2019, 9:56 am | Fair 56º


UCSB Students Stage Walk-Out to Protest Tuition Hikes

Proposed increases would affect students attending University of California and Cal-State campuses

Students a UC Santa Barbara staged a classroom walkout on Monday to protest a proposed increase in tuition for the 2017-18 school year. Click to view larger
Students a UC Santa Barbara staged a classroom walkout on Monday to protest a proposed increase in tuition for the 2017-18 school year. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

In response to tuition increases requested by the University of California Regents and the California State University Board of Trustees, students at UC Santa Barbara walked out of class at noon Monday to protest the proposal.

The UC Board of Regents held a public discussion in November about the university budget, focusing on UC’s expenditure plan and the priorities that it reflects regarding enrollment, maintaining academic quality and various mandatory cost increases, according to UC spokesperson Claire Doan.

The UC system includes more than 238,000 students, and the proposed annual increase would be about $280, Doan said.

Tuition hikes at 23 CSU campuses would be about $270 per student annually.

This amount, should it be approved in January, would be implemented for the 2017-18 academic year, according to Doan.

In 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown and the regents agreed to freeze tuition for in-state students for two years.

The CSU and UC systems are allowed to increase tuition by the rate of inflation starting in 2017.

Tuition at the UC’s has remained flat for the past six years, despite the decline in state support, Doan said.

The state has gone from covering 72 percent of the cost of educating a California student in 2000 to 41 percent last year, Doan said.

The increase would allow the university to maintain the quality of education by lowering the student-faculty ratio, increasing course offerings, and enhancing student-support services, according to Doan.

More than 150 students poured out of class, waved signs, beat drums and chanted outside Storke Tower, before the crowd began marching through the campus.

Students protest a proposed increase in tuition march across campus Monday at UC Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
Students protest a proposed increase in tuition march across campus Monday at UC Santa Barbara. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Rallying with cries such as “What do we want? Tuition rollbacks. When do we want it? — Now,” students and supporters took turns speaking about financial struggle and student debt.

The fee amount, should it be approved, would be covered by financial aid for three-fourths of students, Doan said.

Students voiced their concerns about low-income families.

“We are here to fight tuition hikes, something that disproportionately impacts poor and low-income students,” Justin Deckard, 18, a UCSB political science major, told the crowd at the rally. “We are here to fight for every UC student who goes hungry every night because they can’t accommodate the burden of their tuition.”

After receiving a master's degree from the University of Chicago in anthropology and graduating from Brooklyn College with a bachelor of arts degree linguistics, Ingrid Feeney enrolled at UCSB to receive her Ph.D.

The 32-year-old held a sign saying, “Student loan debt: $83,849.15 and counting. You are not a loan.”

With her graduation set in 2020, Feeney predicts her debt to exceed more than $100,000. 

“Working-class students should not have to mortgage their future away to get an education,” Feeney said. “In this economy, you almost need a master’s degree (to get a job). It’s hard to get that degree without going into debt.”

Feeney was working a full-time job as a bartender while receiving her undergraduate degree.

“I worked to maintain my loans, but couldn’t get out,” Feeney said. “I get a good financial package at UCSB, but I don’t make enough money to pay my interest. It’s growing.”

UCSB lecturer Katia McClain spoke on behalf of the board of Santa Barbara 2141 of the University Council-American Federation of Teachers, a university-wide union representing librarians and lecturers.

She said the group “strongly” supports the students demanding a rollback in fees.

McClain said she urges the regents to uphold the obligation mentioned in the California Master Plan for Higher Education of 1960-1975.

“It declared that the traditional policy of nearly a century of tuition-free higher education is in the best interest of the state and it should be continued,” McClain said.

McClain said student fees were around $334 annually when a UCSB colleague graduated in 1969.

The current in-state undergraduate at UCSB pays $14,014 annually, according to COLLEGEdata.

At UCSB, the average cumulative loan debt is $19,770, according to the UC’s Accountability Report in 2015.

The average UC student debt at graduation is $20,200, according to UC officials.

“It is outrageous the average undergraduate leaves with a crushing amount of debt,” McClain said. “Demand your university back.”

She also addressed poor nutrition and hunger among students who battle with cost rises.

McClain noted a survey released by the University of California Global Food Initiative that revealed nearly 1 in 5 UC students said they’ve skipped meals for lack of money — and that nearly 20 percent “of students reported experiencing very low food security.”

A few dozen UCSB students yelled “shame,” promptly after McClain mentioned the study.

“It is outrageous that the cost for students is so high that some student are living out of their cars,” McClain said.

Michael Kile, a UCSB chemical engineering student, hopes to succeed in a STEM occupation after graduation.

The 23-year-old spent the summer living out of his car after being evicted from his apartment.

“I set up a job, had to live out of my car and go school,” Kile said. “I can’t afford a tuition raise. I came to school to help support my mother after my father passed away. My mother came from Guatemala, so I could get a fair chance — that isn't happening."

UCSB Dean of Student Life Katya Armistead observed the rally and stood on the outskirts of the students.

“This is their First Amendment, and how they can communicate their feelings," Armistead said. “I support them 100 percent. It impacts everyone. This is about the students having access to education.”

The UCSB Student Activist Network organized the walkout.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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