Rain doesn't deter USF St. Pete students from rallying against tuition hikes
Public college students across the state are experiencing sharp increases in tuition costs. An organization called Fight Back Florida is organizing protests at seven different universities this week. Today, students at University of South Florida St. Petersburg rallied to end tuition hikes.
Despite the rainy weather, organizers came out to make sure students knew about the 15 percent boost to their educational costs this year. Tyler Crawford is an organizer with Fight Back Florida, a statewide student and young worker coalition. He said cuts to the stateâs university system shouldnât come at the studentsâ expense.
âWe would say that itâs a part of the legislatureâs problem because they havenât been able to generate revenue for schools. And we feel that students have a right to affordable education. I mean, this is how we get our foot in the door of the economy, how we get opportunities. I mean the thing about tuition increases, why theyâre so bad is because students are being disenfranchised from their future, so itâs really hurting our generation a lot.â
Crawford said he knows first hand just how hard it is to juggle everyday finances with student loan obligations after graduation.
âIâm saddled with a pretty sizable debt, student loan debt that I had to take out to pay for my school. Thatâs something I have to pay back. I make payments of $250 per month, and for somebody whoâs trying to get established and get themselves into a career, thatâs a hard burden to shoulder.â
The cost to attend a public university in Florida is below the national average. But Christian Brooks who is a member of Socialist Alternative said even that is too high.
âOK, letâs accept that you donât have a choice in this. That doesnât necessarily lead us to the conclusion that the cuts are necessary or the hikes are necessary because as Socialists we see education as a right, and not as a privilege. And we think that there should be free education. We live in one of the richest countries in the world and we can afford a free education. The trouble is the one percent of people who control the wealth in society do not pay their taxes and if they did their tax rates arenât high enough to begin with and theyâre holding all their wealth and not investing it.â
Chardonnay Singleton gets help with the cost of her education through the Federal Pell Grant. But with the increasing costs of classes, housing and books, she still had to cut back on her course schedule.
âSo, if they really want to talk about increasing tuition they should also talk about increasing the quality of education we receive at these institutions in Florida. Not only that, but requiring tenured professors to teach more classes and adjunct professors to teach less classes because the adjuncts are doing most of the work while the tenured professors are sitting up fat and happy with 100-grand a year while the adjuncts do most of the work. Itâs not really a balanced system right now. If they made it more transparent then maybe we would be able to sit down and listen to the reasons why they want to increase tuition.â
Undergraduate students who earned a diploma in the state are often eligible for a Florida Bright Futures scholarship that covers up to 100 percent of tuition. But for students pursuing their education past a bachelorâs degree that perk disappears. For Amelia Zimmerman, thatâs when the financial burden really hit.
âGrad classes are twice as much as regular classes. When Bright Futures cuts out at the end of your four years, youâre kind of left with nothing. And if they continue to raise tuition, I donât know if Iâll be able to finish my graduate degree and with a bachelorâs degree in English Lit, you kind of have to go to get your masters and go on. Iâd really like to stay here, but maybe not if the tuition continues to be raised.â
And students werenât the only ones demonstrating on campus today. Occupy St. Peteâs general assembly voted to participate in the rally. Tony Rawson joined other protesters under a covered pavilion, but was asked to leave by campus police because he is not a student.
âThey claim that this is not a sanctioned event so I guess unless youâre sanctioned by the campus administration, they have a feeling that youâre not allowed to protest on campus. Iâm not exactly sure which particular statute here overrides the first amendment. So, I guess thatâs something interesting to look into when time allows. Yeah, I asked them what particular statute we were violating by being a member of the public on a public university campus and they stated that they didnât know but we werenât welcome and we had to move since we were trespassing.â
A USF police officer said demonstrators who were not students could participate from the sidewalk, which is considered public property. Members of the media were allowed to conduct interviews from the pavilion without providing student identification. A USF St. Pete spokesperson declined to comment on the demonstration.
Todayâs protest coincides with a nationwide student strike called for by Occupy UC Davis, where peaceful protesters were peppered sprayed by campus police earlier this month.comments powered by Disqus