Saving CSU system a crucial fight for all

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The students of the CSU system are being forced to pay more but will ultimately get less in return, because enrollment will be impacted and classes will still be eliminated in accordance with the governor’s cuts to higher education in California. In reaction to this, CSUN students are organizing a teach-in for today, and a rally protesting Gov. Schwarzenegger’s cuts this coming Wednesday.

Here at CSUN, we are focusing on regional strategies to address these important concerns that are hitting too close to home. On April 27, in front of the Student Services Building, a bus from CSUN will leave campus at 1 p.m. to meet students from five other CSU campuses at Shatzi’s, the governor’s restaurant in Santa Monica, in hope of addressing these cuts.

This is a regional action organized by the California Faculty Association and CSUN’s Associated Students in order to give a message to the governor that the members of the CSU system are serious, and will fight for all its students, in order to preserve their pursuit of higher education and aspirations for advancing in society.

Tuition has increased by 77 percent since the Fall 2002 semester, with students paying $2,521 in Fall 2005. By Fall 2006, students will be paying $2,723 for their education. That’s a 93 percent fee increase. This is due to the eight percent fee increase that is part of the governor’s budget compact. But tuition increases are but one of many issues that are affecting the students of the CSU system, as there are many ancillary concerns.

The California State Student Association reports that as many as 15,000 eligible students were turned away last year due to the budget cuts. The CSU system budget has lost over half a billion dollars, which has ultimately affected enrollment, the Educational Opportunity Program, and class availability. Many students mobilized last year in order to save EOP, but now, that movement has become one to save our schools from the constant threat of cuts by our state government.

California legislators need to realize that the CSU system has played a critical role in shaping California’s economy, and that it needs to restore and increase financial support because of that. It is reported there are now more than 2 million CSU alumni from the 23-campus system, now contributing more than 15 billion dollars annually to California’s economy. The CFA reports that for “every dollar that goes into the CSU, $4 goes back into the economy.” California is home to the fifth largest economy in the world, yet overwhelmingly spends significant amounts of money in areas other than education, such as the prison system.

Is this the direction in which California is heading? Does California have prisons as a priority over schools? Thirty years ago, California spent 6.5 percent of the General Fund on the CSU system, but now it spends only around 3.5 percent. State support to the CSU continues to decline each year.

While doing presentations to various clubs, organizations and classrooms packed with students, I noticed that many students personally know people who have dropped out of school or have taken time off due to the cuts. It is hard to both hold a job and be a full-time student.

Many people argue that the CSU is still “one of the most affordable educations in the nation,” and that may be true, but it’s also true that we live in one of the most expensive states in the nation. Even if a student can pay the difference, the fact of the matter remains: Eligible high school students will continue to be turned away, and our campuses will be offering less to all those who are matriculated. Students from low socioeconomic and middle-class backgrounds are impacted by the tuition increases, along with other newly expanded expenses in their lives.

Ours is a commuter school, and everyone knows how students feel about the gas prices — “They suck,” as one student put it during one of my classroom presentations. Another common complaint on this campus is the cost of textbooks and food on this campus, a pain felt in the wallets of many of our students.

Many student activists and members of organizations, including the CFA and CSSA, are organizing to continue the mobilization against the proposed cuts by Gov. Schwarzenegger in order to advocate for all California students. This is an attempt to protect the pursuit of higher education and for a better future. Here at CSUN, we are taking direct action in order to address this growing concern.

We need to save CSUN, and the CSU system. A teach-in is being held today in front of the Oviatt Library to address this growing state crisis and to educate the student body on how to take action against the proposed cuts.

Enrique Galan is a junior Chicano/a studies and political science major. He is also director of legislative affairs for the Associated Students.