Angry teachers and student frustrated over ever-increasing tuition costs, budget cuts, and the lack of wage increases aired their financial grievances Wednesday at rallies at UC Irvine, UCLA and Cal State Long Beach.
Students say they now pay more for their college education than the state of California contributes.
"They say the youth is our future but they're not investing in us. It's costing more and more and it's getting harder and harder to go to school," said Alexus Ortiz who joined the protest in Irvine.
The rallies were organized by Refund California, a group of unions that wants banks to reimburse those hurt by the economic downturn. Refund California has also been the cornerstone of the Occupy LA movement.
The organization sent a letter on November 4th to the members of the Board of Regents of the University of California, the California State University Board of Trustees and the Community Colleges Board of Governors – many of whom represent the interests of big banks, financial institutions, and wealthy corporations – calling on them to sign a pledge saying they will support five specific demands that will make banks pay their fair share to stop cuts to higher education, restore needed state revenue and improve the economy for California families.
UC and Cal State universities, who often battle for the same state dollars, rallied up and down the state Wednesday with a parallel agenda.
UC students who participated said they joined the movement because they are concerned about potential tuition increases.
The state budget adopted in June cut UC by $650 million this year. UC responded over the summer by raising tuition for the fall by about 18 percent over last year. UC is set to ask the state for $2.8 billion in 2012-13, an 18 percent increase from the $2.37 billion it received this year.
"We try very hard not to let these cuts affect the students but anytime you have less support staff it trickles down to some extent," said UCI Spokeswoman, Cathy Lawhon.
"If we want to have a functioning democracy then we need to have an educated population," said UCI student Cameron Joe.
At UCLA, a dozen protesters sat in the street at Wilshire and Westwood Boulevards, as police routed traffic away from the area. Eleven people were arrested after they refused to leave. The streets reopened around 3:30pm.
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Meanwhile, the protests continued on the street corners and sidewalks.
Cal State professors joined Wednesday’s rally because they say they were promised a 1% raise, but haven’t seen an increase since 2008. The California Faculty Association is now planning to strike on November 18th at Cal State Dominguez Hills and East Bay campuses.
In a statement, Refund California said their demands include higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for public services.
"I'm a third year student but I'll be graduating soon. I can't afford another year," says UCI student Jose Rodriguez.