Daybook 6 – Student Rally
October 5, 2011
Word Count: 671
SUNY and CUNY students participated in a campus-wide rally today protesting the ongoing tuition hikes and cut to federal funding enacted by the Board of Trustees of the City University of New York.
Amid shouts and charged chanting of phrases like “Students Unite! Fight for your rights!” students gathered around the subway entrance on the corner of 68th and Lexington to share feelings of disgust over the effects the budget cuts have inflicted, from the overcrowding of their classrooms to the limited printing resources and only having one microwave to share with 25,000 other classmates.
“I feel that it’s highly unfair that they’re raising tuition and cutting financial aid,” said Hunter student Helen Yang, 21… “The economy is so bad, yet there are still people getting pay raises and bonuses. They’re cutting money out of the wrong places. Instead of bailing out corporations, they should give that money to the school.
The authorization for a five-year automatic tuition hike and a $31 million budget cut to the Tuition Assistance Program left many incensed and frustrated about the future of their education, many students felt, especially so since the money will go to fund the payroll of the Board of Trustees, among them triple-dipper George Philip, who presently earns upwards of $641,000 from pensions and salaries made at three state coffers which come from student tuition and taxpayer dollars.
“It’s a natural reaction to the blatant attack on the working class. It’s apparent that they are trying to privatize the schools by making people pay for an education that more and more people are struggling to afford,” said Julian Guererro, 24, who is currently unemployed but works with New York Students Rising (NYSR) to spread awareness about the rising corporate influence on CUNY schools.
The current changes far out pace annual increases of average cost of living and inflation, effectively pricing lower-income students out of the SUNY/CUNY system. Many students are forced to work several low-paying jobs to keep up with the charges, putting additional pressure on their academic performance as well as on their own lives.
“I know a girl who essentially has to work three jobs to afford to pay for Hunter. That’s insane. It’s getting harder to afford an education or to even get the most out of it, since they can’t focus with the added responsibilities,” said Christina Chaise, a sophomore at Hunter who spoke at the rally.
Many felt that in the current economic climate, simply obtaining a Bachelor’s degree does not guarantee getting hired after graduation. John Ferrara, 20, a double-major at Hunter, is doubtful about how successful he will be in the job market after finishing his undergraduate studies.
“People in my classes now are so competitive. It’s like they go to college as a means to find a job, but really, unless you stand out in your class in some way, nobody cares about you. Nowadays, everyone has a Bachelor’s degree. It’s like graduating college is the same as graduating from high school,” he said.
Even with the campus-wide efforts made on behalf of the student coalition, many students are in the dark about the core cause of the increases. Hanka Kolasinac, a freshman at Hunter who also works a minimum wage part-time job at Staples to fund her tuition, said before the rally, she had no idea the hike was the result of corporate greed and thought it was actually beneficial to her education.
“It’s good what they’re doing. I work part time and really can’t afford to eat most of the time. It’s not like we’re getting anything special for paying more. The school doesn’t tell their students because it’s like a dirty little secret, so I am very happy I stopped by,” she said.
- Julian Guerrero, 24, (718) 350-5260, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hanka Kolasinac, 18, email@example.com
- Christina Chaise, 20, firstname.lastname@example.org
- John Ferrara, 20, email@example.com
- Helen Yang, 21, (516) 782-1888, firstname.lastname@example.org