Everyone states that the media has a liberal bias, but I have yet to hear this bias on issues that matter to me – and I am sure to the rest of us. Several weeks before the November election, someone asked Gov. Schwarzenegger why he raised college tuition fees and cut state financial aid. He responded: Everyone has to take in some part of the burden and UC tuition costs were too low. I found this on YouTube and never heard it again anywhere on television. For many of you, I am sure that this is the first time you have heard of this. Yet, when we all heard Schwarzenegger announce that he will raise tuition costs by 7 percent – despite the fact that he promised he would no longer raise tuition – we all acted as if we were surprised.
Over the last several decades, college tuition costs have been increasing. According to College Board, tuition costs have gone up 202 percent since 1981, compare that to inflation going up only 80 percent. Back in the 1970s, a minimum wage worker could pay for a year’s worth of tuition with a month’s worth of work. Today, a year’s worth of work would not pay for our college fees. According to a UCSB study, students should work no more than 16 hours a week. If we worked for minimum wage for the thirty weeks we are in school at sixteen hours a week, we would earn a total of $3,240 before taxes. College tuition this year at UCSB is $7,009 – not including fees such as the new $300 Students’ Initiative fee that passed by only thirty votes.
But, wait. Minimum wage went up to $7.50 on Jan. 1. Now we can earn $3,600 while in college compared to the $3,240 we would have earned with the old minimum wage. So, we will see a $60 bonus after we include new fees. Yeah! Now I can buy that history book I needed, if someone will lend me $10 that is.
To be fair to the governor, college tuition fees were on a rise before he took office. However, he took the raising of college tuition to a new level. In 2001, two years before Schwarzenegger took office, UC tuition was $3,429. College tuition has gone up nearly $4,000 – not to mention room and board. In 2001, UC tuition was far below the national average. Today, the national average is $5,836 – over $1,000 dollars cheaper than UC tuition. In fact, California ranks in the top ten in public college costs.
Some will make the argument that many of us have financial aid to lower our costs. However, President Bush slashed $12 billion from Free Application for Federal Student Aid last year. Personally, I received nothing in financial aid from the federal or state government, and my parents cannot afford to pay for my college tuition. I saved all my money up for college while working for minimum wage the last two years. I am at least $5,000 short of paying for the first year’s tuition plus room and board – not including books. The government offered me a $2,600 unsubsidized loan, so I get to take out loans from banks with swinging interest rates. I am sure that there are many people in this school that share my situation.
So what can we do about it? Well, for one thing, we need to make sure our politicians know that most people cannot afford a tuition hike. For those of us who will be paying our own tuition, we will be going at least $80,000 in dept, plus interest. In other words, the cost of one or two of Schwarzenegger’s eight Hummers that he just sold. Still, the most important thing you can do is to tell Arnold Schwarzenegger that our tuition costs are not too low. There are hundreds of thousands of students in all the UC schools and Cal State Universities. We can and we must send our politicians a message that we cannot afford a tuition increase. Schwarzenegger stated in his State of the State Address that education is key to a strong California. In order for a strong California to exist, college must be affordable for all – even the middle class our government seems to forget.