Students protest against budget cuts to California universities

10:29, April 14, 2011      

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Thousands of students walked out of class on Wednesday in protest against budget cuts to the California State University (CSU) system.

Rallies, marches and teach-ins were held at all 23 CSU campuses, organizers said.

With the aim of "Take Class Action: Demand Quality Education", the union-organized protests are "to bring greater public attention to what's going to happen to the CSU if we have a billion-dollar cut to the system," said Teri Yamada, president of the California State University Long Beach chapter of the California Faculty Association, the union that represents the system's faculty and the event's organizers.

"It's incomprehensible how it's going to impact the entire CSU. It will not be the same institution it was before."

Under a budget recently adopted by the state, the CSU system's funding will be cut by 500 million to 2.2 billion dollars, the same amount as 1999 when there were 100,000 fewer students in the system, according to Claudia Keith, the CSU's assistant vice chancellor of public affairs.

An additional 500-million-dollar cut is possible if Governor Jerry Brown's proposal to extend or restore a series of tax increases originally approved in 2009 is not approved, Keith said.

Without that tax revenue, the state's public colleges and universities could see much deeper cuts, which could lead to soaring tuition bills, fewer undergraduate seats and other drastic measures.

Brown so far has failed to win Republican support for his proposal, indicating the possibility of further cuts. These cuts to higher education could lead to higher tuition, larger class sizes and lower enrollment, organizers said.

In California, deep budget cuts during the height of the recession two years ago led to sharp tuition hikes, employee furloughs, course cutbacks and reduced enrollment at the CSU and University of California systems.

"We've been carving away and carving away and carving away," said Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association, which is working with students and employees to organize the demonstrations. "The path we are on is almost suicidal for the state."

The protests coincided with similar events at campuses in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and other states where legislators are slashing education spending to close huge budget shortfalls, according to press reports.

Source: Xinhua
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