Hoping to raise funds for a myriad of issues, such as cheaper textbooks and high-speed rail from L.A. to the Bay Area, the California Public Interest Research Group is soliciting donations at UCSB for its annual drive today.

It costs $5 per quarter to pledge CalPIRG, in return for which students receive an “I pledged CalPIRG” sticker. Student PIRGs are organizations that operate independently on campuses around the country to seek solutions to student interest issues. An active organization at UCSB for the past 27 years, the group lobbies to lower textbook prices and most recently held a drive on campus to inform students of the alleged unfair practices of credit card companies.

CalPIRG interns tabling in the Arbor will ask students to add the quarterly $5 fee to their UCSB BARC accounts through today. The quarterly donation automatically continues until students either leave UCSB or withdraw their request.

CalPIRG must earn pledges from at least 20 percent of UCSB students per academic year to remain on campus and continue advocating its campaigns. According to CalPIRG Campus Organizer Garo Manjikian, 17 percent of the student body had pledged CalPIRG as of Wednesday afternoon, with 600 new people signed up so far this week.

Currently, CalPIRG is running several major campaigns of interest to students. One of these is the new “What’s Your Plan?” campaign, which Manjikian said utilizes the resources of PIRG organizations from schools across the nation to ask presidential candidates what their plans are if elected and what their stances are on issues that will affect young voters in the United States.

“We want to get politicians to start paying attention to young people and issues that young people care about, such as global warming and affordable education,” Manjikian said. “We really want to get more students engaged in what is happening in our government and in the elections.”

CalPIRG is also focusing on its textbook campaign. The campaign recently suffered a setback with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s veto of a bill CalPIRG sponsored – Senate Bill 832, also known as the College Textbook Affordability Act – in favor of an alternative supported by textbook publishers. However, organizers are now focusing on other avenues for the campaign.

For example, CalPIRG is planning to have professors write textbooks online for free, using an idea formulated by De Anza community college professors in the San Francisco area, Affordable Textbooks Campaign Coordinator Tessa Atkinson-Adams said.

Manjikian also said CalPIRG is campaigning to improve public transportation in California.

“Public transit has been severely under-funded in California for the past 30 years, and it’s really important for California because we have three of the five most congested cities in the country,” Manjikian said. “We are pushing for many good transit projects, one of which is the High-Speed Rail, which could travel from Los Angeles to the Bay Area in two and a half hours.”