Campuses Respond to State Budget Cuts

University of California students waged a campus-wide “Week of Action” Feb. 14 to 18 in response to the $500 million in campus budget cuts proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown for the 2011-12 fiscal year. The week’s events included tabling for the California D.R.E.A.M. (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act of 2011, which would allow eligible undocumented students to apply for financial aid, presenting to classes and hosting budget town halls and teach-ins.

“We are trying to show the rest of our campus that they can do something if all students are united on fighting this,” University of California Student Association president Claudia Magaña said. “Our elected officials need to understand that this is a misguided and dangerous path that they are taking our state.”

At UCSD, students delivered presentations on the current fiscal crisis and how it will impact students, in addition to tabling on Library Walk and collecting postcards.

Magaña, a UC Santa Cruz junior, said students are putting additional pressure on legislators to protect themselves from further cuts.

“We’ll be talking about the D.R.E.A.M. Act, we’ll be talking about the budget and we’ll be making sure we have protective language in the final budget,” she said.

Magaña said that UCSA aims to collect 10,000 postcards across the state in support of the D.R.E.A.M. Act. First introduced in 2006, the controversial bill would allow eligible undocumented students to receive financial aid.

“We’re putting additional pressure with the postcards just to make sure [Brown] follows through with the statements he made during his campaign — he did say that he would sign it,” she said.

The act has been reintroduced into the legislature, and is not expected to reach the governor’s desk until September or October. So far, UCSA members have collected about 5,000 signatures.

According to a UC Office of the President statement, if this year’s proposed budget passes, it will be the first time in California history that students pay more than the state does for their education. If Brown’s tax proposals to balance the budget do not pass following a statewide special election this June, Magaña sees the outlook as bleak for students.

“I definitely see the cuts doubling,” she said.

In the event that voters don’t approve Brown’s proposed tax hikes, there will be a $12-billion shortfall for the state of California, which may yield higher student fees.

A.S. Vice President of External Affairs Michael Lam said he is preparing for the Student Lobby Conference taking place in Sacramento, where more than 400 students will be traveling to meet with elected representatives and to lobby on behalf of students in higher education.

“This coming week, Feb. 26 to Feb. 28, we have our annual student lobby conference where students from all the UCs come together; we have lobby trainings to educate everyone on what we’ve been working on in the UCSA,” Magaña said. “And then we go up the 28th, Monday, and we lobby every representative in the state, because we have every campus there.”

Magaña said she is uncertain of the outcome of the university budget crisis during this fiscally difficult time for the state.

“It could potentially get better, and it could potentially get worse,” she said.

Magaña said students aren’t happy with the continued fee increases.

“Students are angry about the cuts,” Magaña said. “Enough is enough. After the 32-percent fee increase last year, and the 8-percent increase this year, it is getting nearly impossible to afford the UC.”

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