California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis visited Long Beach State Wednesday to speak to students and hear their input on critical campus issues.
Kounalakis’ arrival coincided with the weekly Associated Students Inc. Senate meeting where she addressed the student government and emphasized her role in education.
“I went to all 58 counties listening, and what I heard loud and clear is that this dramatic escalation in the cost of tuition has dramatically affected students,” she said.
She explained that one of her main responsibilities and passions in government is working with education. Kounalakis has an appointed position on the California State University Board of Trustees and University of California Board of Regents.
“What I really want to talk about is the piece of my portfolio around public higher education,” she said. “This is something that is very personal to me. I am the first in my family to matriculate to a four year college and graduate.”
Kounalakis’ father attended, but did not graduate, from Sacramento State University. She attributed the educational experience as a major reason for his business success.
“The opportunities that my family has had is because of the benefit of the CSU system pretty directly to my family,” she said.
It was all thanks to the comparatively inexpensive tuition costs that her father was able to attend college at all, she added. Kounalakis compared her expenses as a student at University California Berkeley to the current costs.
“Tuition was about $1,000 dollars a semester $2,000 dollars a year.” she said. “Now the same program, you may know, is $62,000 dollars a year.And I’m not that old.”
Another financial strain she mentioned was the cost of student housing.
“I’ve found that the rates that dormitories are being offered to students are tied to market rate,” she said. “They are not necessarily tied to the cost of delivery.”
Kounalakis said this pricing method, given that most colleges are in desirable real estate locations, making affordable housing untenable for many students. Following her introduction, Kounalakis fielded questions, including one from Sen. Alejandra Aguilar.
“As a future educator myself … I wanted to address an issue we have in our college, representation.” Aguilar said.
Kounalakis responded first explaining that the attention the issue is receiving is a step forward, but acknowledged that there is still a disparity in these arenas.
She also suggested encouraging roles in education to more diverse groups could help make faculty more inclusive.
Outside the meeting, Kounalakis expressed worry about the infrastructure in the UC and CSU systems.
“I’ve had the opportunity to see some of the dilapidated buildings,” she said. “It’s very disturbing to see students work and study in buildings that flood when it rains.”
Kounalakis mentioned paint chipping and asbestos as another two concerns about college infrastructure.
“Until you see it for yourself, it’s kind of hard to believe that the conditions could seem so poor,” she said.
Concerns about the campus’ construction were echoed by ASI Vice President Leen Almahdi after the meeting.
“I’ve heard a lot of concern about the [Social Sciences/Public Administration] buildings as well as the Fine Arts buildings,” she said. “Last year there were mold issues because of leaking.”
Almahdi mentioned art made by students in protest of infrastructure deterioration.
“There was artwork where people took the tiles that had fallen and made a guillotine out of them,” she said. ASI President Genesis Jara nodded her head in agreement.
The next ASI Senate meeting will take place March 27 at 3:30 p.m. in USU 234.