Occupy USF organizers demand tuition freeze
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11/10/11 Andrea Lypka
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University of South Florida students are continuing to protest against 15 percent tuition hikes. A crowd of fifty Occupy USF protesters marched across campus to demand a tuition freeze on November 9. Students gathered in front of Cooper Hall and then marched to Patel Center to meet with university officials and administration. Some demonstrators demanded the resignation of USF President Judy Genshaft. Students chanted “Judy got paid off, we got ripped off,” “Hey, ho, tuition hikes have got to go,” and “When they say cut back, we say fight back.”

One of the protesters was Leonah Arroyo, a library and information science graduate student who can’t make ends meet. She lives off-campus because it is cheaper, she said. She works 10 hours a week at the USF library for $10 an hour. Often, she does not have money for food.

“They are kind of putting it on us to figure out this financial situation,” she said.” When I feel that they [administration] are the representatives that have been hired to deal with the financial burden. Some of the rebuttals made it sound that school should be a luxury. When it should be something you look forward to go into not something you struggle through just to make a working wage.”

Most of the students who came to the Occupy USF event say that college tuition, textbooks and on-campus living have become unaffordable. When Arroyo graduates in the spring, she will be $35,000 in debt for her undergraduate and graduate degrees.

“I have a high GPA, there is nothing else I could have done. I need to pay for my food, my house and my car insurance, and my computer that I need for school,” she said.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, this year, in-state students pay $5,800 tuition fees, while out-of-state pay $14,994. Senior Vice Provost Dwayne Smith said the tuition hikes had to be implemented to offset cuts in the state budget.

“If you look on the back of the sheet that I provided you with, it does give you a comparison which is 2007 the first year the cuts started…. I forget the exact number but I think we are operating about 66 million dollars less than we were at that period of time. The tuition hikes that have been imposed by the sate, at around 8 percent that’s what the state has been offering, has been intended to offset those. Let me be very blunt with you, if you look at 2007the state subsidy to your tuition, you don’t pay anywhere near to the true cost for your tuition, the state subsidy was about 75% in 2007. It is 59% this semester. So we have definitely have seen a decrease in state funding and an increase in tuition that is being imposed on the students,” he said.

Smith says despite the increase in tuition, USF remains affordable. But Occupy USF organizer Dustin Ponder, a junior majoring in English and a member of the Florida Chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, says the political and economic interests intertwine with the goals of administration and the board of trustees.

“What I see honestly, speaking truthfully, is a good cop-bad cop thing. Rick Scott and the state legislature are bad cops and the administration goes, you know, there is nothing we can do it’s these budget cuts we had to pass them, that’s the line we got from our student body president who voted for tuition increases that are running out students from working families, students from low income backgrounds. We just put it on students to make more money. Brian Lamb works for Fifth Third Bank and he is a Board of Trustees member. They give out student loans. He would be all for tuition hikes,” he said.

Ponder proposed a tuition freeze but Smith said that the administration will continue to discuss the issue of tuition hikes.

“You have been heard. I don’t know if we are going to come up with easy solutions as a result of this conversation but you definitely have been heard. There has been a lot of food for thought. The one that stuck with me the most is that it has to be more than an A and B,” he said.

Occupy USF organizers and students will meet administration to discuss solutions of the proposed tuition freeze next Friday.

More photos of the protest

Organizer Dani Leppo reads Occupy USF protesters' demands:



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