It’s been an interesting month for all UC students, including us at UCSB. At this time 30 days ago, UC undergraduate students could have expected a $492.00 (8 percent) increase in their student fees next year. Graduates would have seen an increase of $692.00 and professional students would have faced $2,030.00 in fee increases. It was not looking good, especially because fees have been increasing for the last five years.

It seems, however, that UC students caught a break. Thanks to UCSA (the University of California Student Association) and students across the UC system, especially from UCSB, we won a fee freeze for 2006-2007.

The governor met with UCSA and agreed to fund the UC system in his budget to roll back our fees. I say, “It’s about damn time.” I’m glad we finally won a fee freeze instead of an increase. But the hardship for students isn’t over, because just when we get our governor Arnold in line long enough to not raise our fees, there go those damn shitheads in Congress screwing us over again.

Congress’ final vote in the House of Representatives is scheduled for Feb. 1. In case people haven’t heard, the passage of budget reconciliation, a budgetary process in Congress, will raise the average student loan cost $5,800. This includes rising interest rates, extra fees on loans and loss of potential loan consolidation rights.

In addition to being bad for students, it’s bad for almost everyone else at the same time. There are provisions in budget reconciliation that would do things like extra cuts for family members on a low-income budget – meaning less federal aid toward children for low-income couples who need support in providing for their family. Other acts of budget reconciliation include increasing co-payments for medication by 10 percent for low-income people who receive Medicare, cutting federal aid to the enforcement of child support payments, and removing Medicaid coverage for contraception access for women.

While the student loans are the biggest harm to the average student, it is clear that this is a bad piece of legislation that hurts many people. We have to stop this from passing. The good news is that our representative, Lois Capps, is against the budget reconciliation and has voted against it every time it has come to the floor. This I’m sure is a result of all the hard work that the United States Student Association (USSA) and the students at UCSB have been doing for the campaign.

While our representative is on board, it is time to expand our work. We need to submit opinion editorials like this one or letters to the editors of newspapers in other districts that plan to enact these cuts. We have to continue to inform our campus community about how it will be affected if these cuts do go into affect and how we can start to change the framework of what’s affordable for college students.

The USSA and the UCSA are currently working together to tackle this enormous problem. The will be a Town Hall meeting coming up in the next couple weeks for students to come together to get informed on how expensive college has become and decide what we can do to make it more affordable and accessible for students everywhere. It’s great that we have won a fee freeze for all UC students, but now we have to stop the even larger cuts proposed by budget reconciliation.

Bill Shiebler is the campus organizing director for USSA and community labor liaison for the USSA.