Listen up, legislators

The outcry against tuition increases throughout the years has been scrawled across this paper’s opinion page and shouted from the steps of Sproul Hall time and time again.

We, California students, have called upon Sacramento to take action. We’ve made compelling arguments and exhaustive pleas. But it seems our cries, now raspy and hoarse, have fallen on deaf ears. Are state legislators listening?

Yet again, UC students are facing further potential tuition increases, this time under an incremental four-year plan that by 2016 would push tuition over $22,000 — 81 percent higher than the current $12,192 level.

The four-year plan for tuition increases proposed by the UC Board of Regents last week should make state legislators squirm — it essentially proclaims that the UC knows that it cannot trust the state government for significant funding even as far out as four years into the future. Regent Richard Blum said as much at the regents’ Thursday meeting, stating that he has “no faith in Sacramento to ever do the right thing.”

But at least the plan communicates to students what to expect for the next four years rather than surprising and outraging campuses semester-after-semester with new increases. At least the proposal provides some stability for students by informing them of what to expect — a reassurance that the state, by continually cutting from campus budgets each year, has not provided.

Students have shouted their message to Sacramento until they are blue in the face: Tuition increases are painful. Raising the cost of education limits accessibility, puts a strain on the middle class and severely undermines the posterity of the state. But are our legislators paying attention? Who is taking action on our behalf?

We need our elected officials to be our advocates. Just as our representatives depend on our votes to assume their positions, we depend on them to be visible and vocal, open to our concerns and prepared to fight for our cause.

Students must no longer be ignored. We are the future of California — still one of the largest economies in the world. We will assume responsibility for the state when those currently in power become too old and gray to continue their roles. As our elected officials, state legislators are responsible for representing our needs and seeking to create policies that support our best interests. Legislators should at least acknowledge our pleas and hear what we have to say.

The one state senator, Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who has been outspoken about the university has misplaced his attention, focusing a scrutinizing lens on the UC’s internal mechanisms rather than becoming an effective proponent for increased funding. Though we acknowledge the importance of honesty and public disclosure within any institution, his constant push for transparency within the university will not save the UC from its financial struggles.

Who then do we turn to for a trustworthy voice? Where is Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, whose district includes the campus? Where are our elected officials’ responses to our cries?

Instead we see how the state’s divestment has resulted in higher education systems that increasingly place the weight of funding education onto its students. Students are stranded, unable to enroll in even community colleges — this year, a staggering 670,000 students were turned away from overcrowded campuses. Collectively, the three systems sustained a $1.7 billion cut so far this year. Higher education institutions must further brace for potential trigger cuts midyear should state tax revenues fall short.

The tenets of access and excellence proclaimed in the state’s 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, which defined the roles of the three state systems, now seem far away.

Do legislators not see this, too? We recognize that there are political obstacles and deadlocks in the legislature that hamper progress as well as restrictions as to what can be cut. But if so, tell us. We want to know. If there is no way out, legislators should inform us. Elected officials should converse with us, explain to us why they must cut from our education, but also strive to find alternatives.

Instead of students again and again taking buses and carpools to the state capital, Sacramento should come to us. We call on state legislators as well as regents to join in a conversation on campuses — come physically talk to student constituents about the budget crisis. See for yourselves the impact that over $1 billion can have across UC and CSU campuses.