Igniting outrage across campuses, the California State University system announced a 6% tuition increase, leaving students and faculty in the throes of anger, distress and frustration.
The decision to hike tuition fees by 6% sent shock waves through the CSU community, with students and faculty voicing their dismay and disappointment. Expressing the shock felt across the CSU community, a protest was held Sept. 21. While the grievances are palpable, there remains a cautious optimism, as students and faculty look to the horizon, yearning for a future where increased investment in CSU will yield a more promising landscape.
One of the protesters was Kate Ozment, an associate English professor and member of the California Faculty Association.
“One of the reasons that I went to the protest was because of how negative this is going to be on our students,” said Ozment. “I’ve been here for five years, and I’ve been an advisor for all five years, and the things that I have helped students talk through are heartbreaking. It’s housing insecurity, it’s food insecurity, it’s caring for family members while being a breadwinner of their house and trying to go to school, which is their dream.”
Ozment explained as an advisor and professor for Cal Poly Pomona, she tries to do everything she can to make the trek of higher education an easier process. Faculty work hard to remove the institutional barriers keeping students from progressing, such as tuition costs, she added.
“My institution basically betrayed us with everything we’re doing by throwing down the biggest possible barrier that you can with a 34% tuition increase, which is the biggest tuition raise I’ve ever heard of and it’s just purely unconscionable,” said Ozment. “They never explained to us transparently why they needed to do this. They in fact seem to be throwing it back on us at the moment, which feels disingenuous because they say very vaguely it is labor costs.”
According to the LAist under the terms of the proposal, CSU will set aside one-third of the money raised by the increased tuition for additional aid.
“How many of the people making these choices are people who have stepped foot in a classroom ever?” said Ozment. “Or even in the last 15 to 20 years? Because I guarantee the people making these choices are not the ones who work with students every day. It’s just bizarre when you have a Ph. D, but somehow you’re still low on the labor totem pole. I just feel betrayed. I feel heartbroken. I feel like so many of my great students are going to have to drop out or can’t afford to even come, and I won’t even get to meet them. And that’s not what the CSU was for. That’s not our mission.”
Ozment explained the vagueness of where the money is going is a question many are asking. For the 60% receiving federal aid and have school paid for, the other 40%, which is thousands of students, are left behind.
Attending a CSU is a decision made by many for its affordable learning solutions. w close to 200,000 students systemwide will be afflicted by the trustees’ decision. The resolution also came after the trustees recently approved a salary and benefits package that’s just under $1 million a year for new CSU Chancellor Mildred Garcia.
“One of the reasons I chose to go to CPP was because it was the affordable option,” said Nailah Ahmad, a third year kinesiology student. “I am paying part of my tuition with my parents, and I see how much it affects my mom. Hearing about the 6% increase is just crazy.”
Shervin Jalilvand, an second year electromechanical systems engineering technology student believes this increase goes against what CSU’s are supposed to stand for. People choose to attend CSUs as opposed to other colleges because it offers a solid education at an affordable rate, where everyone has a chance to put their best foot forward in pursuing their passions.
“I feel like it’s unfair to the people who get scholarships, too; those are hard to get,” said Jalilvand. “So now a lot of people who can’t afford school have to drop out for financial reasons. I feel like we should all be granted access to a fair education with a fair price because that’s what the CSU stands for.”
Many students were only made aware of the increase this past week when headlines began to appear in the news. Summer Ernst, a second year kinesiology student heard about it for the first time this week and was left in shock. She expressed concern for students who pay their own way through college, and she fails to see how this works in favor of them continuing their education at a CSU.
“I feel like it affects everyone’s future as well because some people can’t go to college because they’ll end up in debt or not go at all because the price is too much, which just sucks,” said Ernst. “It is not fair to have that stress when trying to go to college.”
As the cost of education continues to mount, many are now pinning their hopes on a brighter future, clinging to the promise of improved resources and opportunities.
“I have hope that it will change in the future,” said Jessica Valle, third year kinesiology student. “I feel like a lot of people are talking about it and definitely a lot are frustrated about this. I have hope that it’ll change in the future. I think if enough people will come forward and talk about it to the point where they will have to deeply cut back.”
Ozment expressed how despite a deliberate misinformation campaign that caused many students to be unaware of this tuition increase, she has been impressed with CPP students and how they have advocated for themselves since discovering the CSU’s plan of action.
“I watched them stare down boards of directors as sophomores in college and tell them their life story,” said Ozment. “But those students decided to share it because they knew the impact of having it on the record of what this would do. That is one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen. And this is why I love this job. It’s because our students are brave, they’re smart and they’re courageous. And this is why I know that this isn’t the end. It’s just a really upsetting failure for now.”