As part of a National Day of Action, two student lobby groups will combine their efforts to curtail proposed college fee increases and education budget cuts by holding a call-in and a postcard petition.
The call-in, organized by the United States Student Association, will be directed at congressional representatives, who will also soon receive accompanying postcards from students asking them to vote down proposed federal education budget cuts. USSA will deliver the cards in March to the chairpersons of the Appropriations Committees in both the House and the Senate.
On the state level, the University of California Students Association will begin collecting cards today to lobby California lawmakers for funding as part of an effort to prevent the governor’s proposed increase in fees for higher education. The UCSA card drive will run through Feb. 21, and the postcards will be sent to Assemblywoman Julia Brownley and California State Senator Jack Scott, Chair of the Senate Committee on Education.
Concerning federal cuts, President George W. Bush’s proposed budget for the 2008 fiscal year would cut funding for programs such as Federal Perkin’s Loans – low interest loans for graduate and undergraduate students – and federal grant money from the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership program. Money from the LEAP program currently helps fund the CalGrant Program. However, Bush’s budget also includes an increase of $550 to Pell Grants of $550 on top of their current maximum amount of $4,050.
As for UC student fees, in November 2006 the UC Regents proposed a budget for the 2007-2008 school year that would require an increase in fees of approximately 7 percent unless the state and federal governments provide more funding to the system. The Regents decided to hold off on a final vote on the budget until they saw Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed state budget in January.
However, the governor’s budget does not provide enough money to cover the cost of the proposed 7 percent tuition increase. The UC Regents will vote on student fees in March.
Along with stopping fee increases, Associated Students External Vice President of Statewide Affairs Bill Shiebler said UCSA is asking representatives to restore $33 million dollars in funding for academic preparation programs that, under the governor’s current budget proposal, will be cut this year.
A fact sheet from the UCSA states that student fees have increased over 79 percent in the past five years, while funding for grants has stayed level.
Shiebler said the impact of such budget cuts on the UC system is often underestimated because of the system’s size.
“The impact that the federal budget has on California is huge,” Shiebler said. “No one feels it harder than the students that depend on these programs.”
Shiebler said many current UC students would not have the privilege to attend college without the educational outreach programs for which the USSA strives to maintain funding. He said such programs educate disadvantaged students about college opportunities and financial aid.
“Many tens of thousands of kids at UC have benefited from outreach,” Shiebler said. “Cuts to these programs limit our ability to get those students into college.”
To get involved, Shiebler said students at UCSB can call Lois Capps’ local office at (805) 730-1710 or can visit the USSA website at www.usstudents.org to obtain a sample script for the calls.
Greta Romero, a first-year psychology major, said an increase in tuition would be difficult for most students to manage.
“Most of us already have to get loans before we graduate, and if tuition rates increase, it just makes it that much more difficult,” Romero said. “Less aid means more loans and interest rates are really high.”
First-year political science major and member of A.S. Student Lobby Radhika Khosharay said every student should be concerned with the increase in fees and get involved to make a difference.
“Imagine being a full-time student and working 20 hours a week,” Khosharay said. “This is our education. It shouldn’t be a commodity to be sold – it should be there to enrich us.”
In addition to activities this week, next weekend approximately 40 UCSB students will attend the UCSA Lobby Conference in Sacramento. Participants will discuss current legislative issues affecting higher education.