UC Berkeley students rally against university tuition hikes

Debbie Yuen/Staff

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Nearly a dozen graduate students and community members gathered Wednesday morning on Sproul Plaza to rally against the UC Board of Regents’ vote on raising tuition, which took place later that day.

The regents proposed to increase tuition by $348 for in-state tuition and $978 for out-of-state tuition, and they voted to postpone voting on these proposals until March and May, respectively. Last year, the regents voted to raise in-state tuition by $336 and out-of-state tuition $1,332 after a six-year freeze.

Protesters held signs that read “No hikes – end tuition,” and chanted, “Whose university? Our university!” throughout the rally. The rally concluded with the protesters marching to the Downtown Berkeley BART Station to attend the regents’ meeting. Speakers included ASUC President Zaynab AbdulQadir-Morris and Richmond Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles.

Campus graduate student Robin Pearce said she believes tuition is a barrier to education and that tuition increases will continue every year.

“Berkeley is a public institution — it should be able to offer world-class education to the public without high fees,” Pearce said.

In a campuswide email, Chancellor Carol Christ said moderate tuition increases would alleviate the financial issues caused by overcrowding and high demand for already impacted courses. Christ also said low-income students would not be affected because their financial aid packages would cover any changes in tuition.

“In my view, it is far better to have small, predictable tuition increases than to have a more volatile pattern of repeated freezes followed by double-digit spikes,” Christ said. “It is better for families and better for our institutions.”

The event was co-sponsored by the UC Student-Workers Union, the Progressive Student Association, CalSERVE, Berkeley Citizens Action and California Young Democrats Progressive Caucus, according to campus graduate student Dominick Lawton.

Vice President of the Progressive Student Association Matthew Lewis said there are multiple ways the university can cut costs instead of raising students’ tuition, citing the fact that eight out of 10 UC chancellors received pay increases.

Lewis also reminded the audience that this was the second year in a row that the regents proposed to raise tuition and the third time throughout his academic career.

“The power that regents hold determines not only our future, but the future of all public universities in the country,” Lawton said to the crowd.

Campus graduate student Kavitha Iyengar said the UC Student Workers Union has historically been an undergraduate-led movement in opposition to such increases. Lewis voiced his belief that the regents were not fond of students organizing against them.

“A public university is fee-free and tuition-free for the public it serves,” Lawton said to the crowd.

Contact Francesca Munsayac at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @fcfm_dc.