Thousands march in protest of cuts to higher education


Thousands of California students and citizens marched in front of the state Capital on March 5 in protest of budget cuts, increasing costs to education and college accessibility.

Students chanted and shouted for most of the day and held up signs, demanding lawmakers to restore funding to colleges. In the 2011-2012 state budget, community college funding was cut by $400 million, and in Dec. 2011, mid-year trigger cuts reduced funding by an additional $102 million, according to a press release by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

“Fund our future is the message we’re trying to send,” said Alex Pader, former president of the student senate for California community colleges. “Making sure that education remains excisable, affordable and of a high-quality.”

The march began at 10 a.m. and ended at the steps of the Capital building, where a rally took place. Speakers addressed the importance of higher education and the growing barriers of entry associated with increasing cuts.

“We need to do something dramatically differently and that’s really what I hope today represents,” said Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. “A willingness of people to step up and step in to this debate and put a face on these cuts, and make the case to the legislator that ‘you’re not representing us and you’re not doing justice to the future of this state.’”

“You need to hold us accountable to those words and actions,” Newsom added.

Occupy movement protesters also participated in the event in support of the Millionaire’s Tax of 2012. The tax, which was also a rallying point for student protesters, proposes placing an additional tax on Californians who make more than $1 million annually, and using the revenue to fund public education.

“I like that it was peaceful and everyone was in control,” said Cosumnes River College student Alexandra Oster, a 20-year-old anthropology major. “I felt like that got the message across clearer then it would of if people were getting hectic and out of control.”

Tuition costs are set to increase at California community colleges to $46 per unit in the summer, up from $36. Newsom stressed that lawmakers care and that “we’re not doing justice to our redirect.”

“It’s not just about the students and their family, it’s about business and labor coming together,” Newsom said. “There’s no more important issue for the business community than higher education because we’ve always conveyed the best and the brightest minds from our system.”