California students joined nationally in fee protests

California students joined nationally in fee protests
# 05 March 2010 02:20 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Students at California’s public universities rallied across the state Thursday to protest massive budget cuts and fee hikes they say has damaged a system of higher education long the envy of the nation, APA reports citing Reuters.

More than 100 such events in over 30 states were scheduled for a "Day of Action" in support of public education, according to student websites. The demonstrations were prompted by tuition hikes and program cuts that reflect financial problems affecting nearly every U.S. state.

In California, dozens of students as well as faculty and staff who also have been hit by cuts, chanted and picketed at the University of California at Berkeley, the university said.

Students at California State, Fullerton, said they had taken over a building there, and the University of California at Santa Cruz sent an alert to faculty and students to avoid the main campus due to protests.

Students are not alone in their dissatisfaction with cutbacks. Polls show voters see California headed the wrong way with a gaping state budget shortfall, legislative gridlock, slashed social services and double-digit joblessness.

Marchers may be the vanguard of a debate about whether California should temper its aspirations or pay more to maintain universities and other California hallmarks such as state parks and social services.

"For the students at the (University of California) now, this is our political moment," said Jesse Cheng, a nonvoting student member of the university’s governing board.

Fee hikes of more than 30 percent that lift education costs to over $10,000 per year will make the university system more costly than rivals in other states, students said.

Financial pressure is mounting in other states, as well. Illinois’ state government faces an $11 billion deficit, forcing the University of Illinois system to weigh tuition hikes of up to 20 percent for incoming freshmen, said Stanley Ikenberry, interim president of the university’s campus at Urbana-Champaign, in a newspaper interview this week.
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