I can’t believe it is still happening. I thought students and working people had taken a tough enough blow when our congress and president enacted billions and billions of cuts to the fundamental programs our country depends on. That’s right; I’m talking about billions and billions of cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, student loan programs, financial aid programs and more. I thought that the biggest cuts to financial aid and loan programs in the history of the world were bad enough, but apparently I was wrong.
Reality check: Already, the governor is planning on raising fees for UC students again next year. Governor Schwarzenegger has eliminated all funding for outreach programs for the third year in a row. Over the course of three years, he has taken outreach from $66 million down to $17.3 million and now to $0. Aside from eliminating outreach and increasing fees in the state, now, in the federal government, President Bush has recently announced his plan to cut over $893 million from federally funded grant and outreach programs. He plans to completely eliminate six entire programs from existence as well as massively cut 36 specific programs that help K-12 students.
The attack on education and specifically, higher education, is here and now!
We all know that no president has ever stripped this country’s populace of more rights and civil liberties than our current commander in chief. His radical right-wing politics have only come at the expense of the people he is supposed to listen to and represent. While his engagement in the Iraqi war, unwarranted wiretaps and illegal surveillance are deplorable and shameful, it is just not right to tax and deplete what should be most fundamental to our country. It is not right that our state and federal governments are eliminating the only programs that establish and track students into college.
What do they want to happen? Do they want students to be less prepared to make it to college or to get a decent job? Do they want less people in college? Maybe less kids in grades K-12? Maybe they just think making college more expensive, less accessible and institutionally underfunded, all of which decrease the quality of our education, is OK. Who knows what the president and our governor are planning and why they won’t give working college students a break? What I do know is that now, more than ever, we have to do something about it. We are losing the basics, the most fundamental programs to our country. It is time to demand more representation and more resources to fight for education.
We need more organizations with strong funding sources to represent students. We need institutionalized and long-term solutions to the affordability crisis students find themselves in. It is time to prioritize what is most fundamental to our existence at the university.
Our voices as students continue to go unheard by those who are really making the decisions in this country. Only when we can establish a legitimate presence and organizing capacity for our elected representatives will we be able to demand that they prioritize our issues. We have a long road and a tough battle ahead of us in winning this goal, but the work has already started. In the upcoming weeks and months, students on this campus will begin some new campaigns that support this cause:
1) Fixing the Affordability Crisis in the UC: Build a long-term fee solution; it’s time for a compact with the students.
2) Take a Vow to Grant Aid Now! Save the fundamental programs that help kids go to college.
3) The Student Voice: Renew our energy to strengthen the voice of students at UCSB and in the UC system.
It is time to invest in strengthening the student voice in order to stop the attacks on our education.
Bill Shiebler is a junior sociology major.