Students and faculty will gather to discuss the rising costs of a University education tonight at a town hall meeting sponsored by the University of California Students Association (UCSA).

The event begins at 7:30 p.m. in the MulticCultural Center Theater. Participants will discuss issues that affect the cost of education, such as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to allocate $75 million to the UC budget, said UCSA State Affairs Organizing Director Bill Shiebler. The meeting will also address the federal budget reconciliation bill, which is scheduled for vote by Congress on Feb. 1 and could increase the interest rates for student loans.

The United States Student Association is also sponsoring the event.

Shiebler, a third-year sociology major, said both student lobbyists and faculty members will speak at the program.

“One of the points [of the meeting] is that we want students to be educating and speaking with other students about issues that affect them,” Shiebler said.

Associated Students (A.S.) External Vice President of Statewide Affairs Felicia Cruz said she has received positive feedback from students regarding tonight’s program. Cruz, a senior sociology major, said the event should help students find solutions to UC-related financial issues.

“I feel that this year is a good starting point for preventing future fee increases,” Cruz said. “This year we had short term solutions, but we need long term solutions, and that’s what this meeting is looking at.”

Shiebler said the average student, having borrowed money from the federal government, graduates from college $20,000 in debt. While Schwarzenegger may have recently allocated funds to the UC, Shiebler said he is still concerned about potential increases of student fees in the future.

“I think that the governor has a trend of raising UC student fees,” Shiebler said. “I’m glad we were able to convince him not to raise fees this year, but I don’t think it guarantees anything for next year.”

In order to combat future increases, Shiebler said, students should keep up-to-date with the Governor’s budget proposals. They can also participate in organizations such as the A.S. Student Lobby, Legislative Council and the Office of the External Vice President of Statewide Affairs.

“These groups already work on it, and by joining these groups you have a lot more collective ability to enact change,” Shiebler said.

UCSB Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael Young said he shares student concerns regarding increased student fees, but thinks the decision is ultimately left to the state.

“The issue is what degree the people of California believe they can support the University,” Young said. “Someone has to pay for it, whether through legislation or fee increases.”