To chants of “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” members of Students for Quality Education marched to Brotman Hall yesterday. The protest was organized to galvanize support against an upcoming Cal State University Board of Trustees vote on raising tuition for CSU students.
The vote on the tuition increase is scheduled for the next BOT meeting, to take place on March 21 – 22. The proposed five percent increase would raise undergraduate rates by $270 per year, credential program rates by $312 dollars per year and graduate student fees by $438 per year.
“A tuition increase isn’t something that’s simple to handle for folks, unless you have money,” said Norberto Lopez, a senior Sociology and Chicano & Latino Studies major and member of SQE that helped organize the event. “Even if you do receive federal or state financial aid, it still isn’t enough. Rent goes up, food [costs] go up, so it isn’t just a $270 increase. That’s the point we’re trying to get across . . . at the end of the day if you raise tuition, you’re going to send more people onto the streets.”
Thirty SQE members met outside of the campus bookstore in the free speech zone before marching on Brotman Hall. After short speeches from Lopez and Dale Lendrum, a Cabinet member for Associated Students, Inc., the group began their march, holding up signs reading “Save my education,” and “Can’t afford $270.” Once at the fountain in the plaza outside Brotman Hall, the SQE members gave a series of speeches and led chants to draw attention to the upcoming vote.
“I was just walking to my car and I saw some posters and heard people speaking, so I’m just trying to see what’s going on over here,” said Lexi Germaine, a third year communications major who was drawn to the protest. “I don’t think that this increase is something that would necessarily directly affect me, as I’m scheduled to graduate next semester. But it’s more about the principle. Even if it doesn’t directly affect me, I don’t think that means that I should not say anything about it or not support the people who are saying things about it.”
ASI Senator-at-large Daniel Gomez and Vice President Logan Vournas were also in attendance, speaking in support of SQE and their cause.
“We’re working in solidarity [with SQE] when we plan actions like this, so we’re working together on this and actions on the 21st and the 22nd – the days of the vote,” Vournas said. “[ASI] passed a resolution against the tuition increase back when it first came out in November and recently just passed the opposing payment increase act, which is a way us in ASI can work with the legislature to create a sustainable funding model for the CSU system and higher education in general.”
The shared goal of stopping the tuition increase received a major boost when California Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva proposed Assembly Bill 393, the “Student Protection Act” on Feb. 21. The bill would freeze tuition increases in the CSU system until 2020. Gomez and Vournas said that supporting the passage of this bill was now a key part of their strategy to prevent rising prices on student tuition.
In addition to SQE and ASI, members of Anakbayan Long Beach, an activist group for Filipino youth and students, also showed up to lend their support to the cause. The group led a chant about reducing money spent on military expenses and promoting further investment in education.
“I don’t go to school here, but I’m born and raised in Long Beach,“ said Jedi Jimenez, the Vice Chair for Anakbayan. “All my friends are either in debt or paying it off. A lot of them are students here. Everybody’s in debt. Education should be free. It’s a human right . . . they should be investing in the lives of the future.”