Sacramento, Calif. — According to the California Governor’s budget summary for 2012-2013, higher education in the state of California has been cut by more than $2.65 billion since 2008. Last week, more than 10,000 students from the University of California, California State University and the California Community College systems marched and protested on the steps of the state Capitol against further cuts to their education.
I was fortunate enough to one of those students.
The March in March is an annual march against budget cuts to education organized by the statewide student government organizations of public universities and community colleges across California. Students as far north as Butte College (Oroville) and as far south as College of the Desert (Palm Desert) make the trip by car, bus or airplane to exercise their rights to free speech and public demonstration.
This year’s march included student speakers, Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles), Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). Speaker Perez pumped up the crowd by announcing his proposed Middle Class Scholarship program which aims to cut college fees by more than two-thirds and set aside $150,000 for community colleges. This would be made possible by closing the $1 billion corporate tax loophole that allows out-of-state corporations to elect to lower their California tax bill.
The first year I participated in the March in March, my local student government took a busload of interested students on the nine-hour bus ride to the state capitol. After the march members from my college met with our local legislators and expressed our concerns regarding budget cuts to education. I was so motivated and enthused after my first march that I joined the Student Senate for California Community Colleges, the community college organization that represents all California community college students at the state level and organizes the March in March.
The second year I participated in the March in March, I was the president of the student government at College of the Desert. That year, cuts to education were being felt by everyone on a much higher level than in years prior, so naturally interest was much higher and we were able to double the amount of student participation in the march.
Due to a veto by the President of the student government at College of the Desert, this year my local student government was not able to participate in the March in March, but I still attended as part of the Student Senate for California Community Colleges.
Since I entered higher education in the fall of 2008, I have seen fees rise, course offerings cut and professors laid off. I face cuts on both sides of the spectrum. My mother, who is a single parent works and works at a local school district, has seen her pay cut and I have delayed my plans of transferring to a four-year university.
Events like the March in March are more than a trip to Sacramento where I can burn some calories by waving a homemade sign and marching several miles. The March in March is my way of exercising my freedom of speech and my civic duty to take a stand and say, along with my fellow students, “No more cuts to education!”
Higher education is a long term investment in the future of California that will pay off. This is an election year, so a struggling college student like me can only hope that our legislators are listening and will vote to fund higher education.