Rallies across UC system protest tuition hikes

Some UC students fear that tuition protests will lose momentum over the Thanksgiving break

Hundreds of students rallied at campuses across the UC system Monday, staging walkouts, marches and sit-ins in protest of tuition increases.

In Berkeley, scores of students and community members marched through the city and continued to occupy Wheeler Hall. At UCLA, several dozen students rallied in front of Powell Library. And dozens of protesters at UC Irvine staged a sit-in at the dean of students office, demanding an audience with the university's chancellor.

The tuition increases — up to 5% each year over the next five years — would raise costs next school year as much as $12,804 and as high as $15,564 by the 2019-20 school year. Protests began last week, when UC regents voted to raise tuition unless more state funding is provided.

At UCLA, protesters used chalk to write on the walls of Powell Library. One message said: "Student Power" and "No to Tuition Hikes"

Matthew Holland, 20, a senior studying political science and history, said students' voices have been effectively shut out of the conversation about the increases. The UC system is repeating past mistakes of raising the costs on students without effectively investing in their education, he said.

"They're trying to charge the students more and say that it's going to make everything better," he said. "But it never has and it never will."

Jonathan Lake, 25, a graduate student at UCLA, said the regents have shown they care little about maintaining a high-quality, accessible education for Californians.

"They're gutting a public institution here," he said. "They do not value public education."

Lake said many of his classmates fail to appreciate the financial toll such raises will have on them in the future as they are forced to take out more loans to cover rising costs. "We should be lowering tuition, not raising it," he said.

The plan by UC President Janet Napolitano is aimed at keeping increases predictable for families. She said the additional funds are necessary to help pay employees' salaries and pensions, hire more faculty and raise the number of California undergraduates by 5,000 over five years.

Gov. Jerry Brown, along with other top state officials, opposed the increase. Under the plan, Napolitano can eliminate or reduce the percentage increase, depending on state funds.

At UC Berkeley, hundreds of protesters marched on California Hall, where the office of Chancellor Nicholas Dirks is located. Dirks spoke with students, telling the crowd that he understood and shared their outrage of the state's disinvestment in higher education and attempted to assuage some of their concerns about rising costs, university spokesman Dan Mogulof said.

About 100 protesters have camped out since Nov. 19 at Wheeler Hall to protest the tuition increases, but those numbers have since dwindled to a couple dozen in recent days.

Students at UC Irvine met with Thomas Parham, the vice chancellor for student affairs, after the sit-in.

Dozens of students at UC Santa Cruz continued their occupation of the Humanities and Social Sciences Building. A march through campus was expected to begin late Monday.

Many organizers expressed concerns that demonstrations would lose momentum during the holidays, but many vowed to return after the Thanksgiving break to continue the protests.

stephen.ceasar@latimes.com

Twitter: @sjceasar

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