This year’s major buzzwords: furloughs, student fees, privatization, UC Regents.
They have been used to describe the key people and effects of the California and UC budget crises that led to the 32.5 percent increase in student fees this year and the subsequent uproar by the UC community.
And these words will continue to ring in our ears long after the hikes.
Current and future students, teachers and workers will all be affected. Lecturers have been laid off. Programs have been cut or consolidated. Employees have mandated days off. Students are paying more for less. As the student fees increase, as budgets and programs get slashed, the student body, along with the University community, will certainly change.
At City on a Hill Press, we’ve started a special online feature to document this ongoing story and these ongoing changes. We will cover the background of the UC budget crisis, break down what happened in the past two years and continually update our readers with developing stories.
Most importantly, we will profile individuals whose lives are changed by the crisis. This is an ongoing project, as the impact of the crisis will continue to evolve and change as time goes on. We will be here to capture the changing higher education system.
We’re previewing our project with our first few profiles: one of an anonymous AB 540 student who relies solely on private donors to fund his education; another of Bo Doub, who is reconsidering his plans for graduate school; and one of Katie Woolsey, who lost her teaching assistant position and has taken on a second job.
If you or someone you know has a story to share and would like to be featured for this project, contact email@example.com.
For Bo Doub, education is plagued with guilt.
Learning in the University of California system, which once gave him knowledge and satisfaction, has now been replaced with a heavy conscience and money troubles.
“Before I had this sense of fulfillment of being in school, learning about things I was passionate about — sociology and law,” said Doub, a fifth-year sociology major.
After deciding to stay a few extra quarters to obtain a minor in legal studies, Doub had second thoughts after the UC Regents voted to raise fees by 32.5 percent.
“At the end of the summer I was regretting staying in school for another minor, even though it’s only for two extra quarters,” he said. “When I heard about the fee increases, my regret about that decision got even more intense.”
He decided to enroll as a part-time student for his last quarter this winter, which he said cuts his tuition in half for enrolling with no more than 10 units.
Although Doub receives a financial aid package and student loans that cover his student fees, his parents, who recently retired, are the ones footing his housing and living expenses.
“That was going well until recently,” he said. “They both retired within the last year-and-a-half. My brother and I still rely on them for our monthly allowance. That, combined with the fee increases, really changed my feelings about being in school.”
His job at the Santa Cruz Public Library, a position he’s held since 2007, got him interested in library science and information studies. He’s applied for graduate programs at UCLA and UC Berkeley.
“I’m passionate about the social aspects in information,” Doub said, “but I am weighing the cost benefits of continuing at a UC.”
He said he’s deciding if the cost of education is worth the benefit of a future job that relates to libraries and archives.
“I definitely want to go,” he said, “I want to be educated in that field and get a Masters from a good school.”
But at the same time, Doub is worried about two more years in which his parents need to support him. He feels “anxious” to graduate as soon as possible and get a job to pay his parents back.
“Even if I do get in, it’s not a definite that I can attend because I might need a job,” he said. “I already signed up for a teacher’s assistant position so I can make money there, but it’s not for sure. The whole decision is surrounded by financial issues.”
Katie Woolsey loves teaching. But you won’t find her addressing a classroom the rest of the school year. Woolsey, a graduate student in the literature department at UC Santa Cruz working towards her PhD, was told halfway through fall quarter that she was un-hired as a teaching assistant for classes in winter and spring quarters, despite a yearlong contract she had with the university. One class Woolsey was scheduled to teach was canceled entirely.
The loss of her teaching assistant position, combined with the recently passed 32.5 percent fee increase, has forced Woolsey to search for alternate ways to fund her education.
“My main support, like most graduate students, at least in the humanities, comes from teaching and TA-ing,” Woolsey said.
Woolsey, a lifetime resident of California who graduated from UC Berkeley, was fired from her teaching positions because of new limits the UCSC graduate division has put on graduate student employment. These limits, as well as reduction of class offerings, are part of the University’s efforts to cut costs in the face of reduced state funding.
Classes that several years ago would have had seven or eight teaching assistants are now being designated “no-TA” classes in which students do not have the benefit of a discussion section.
Woolsey said her department has been supportive, but was unsuccessful in their efforts to retain her job.
“There was this whole complicated math about what did and didn’t count as employment — it was changed drastically. People such as myself were told that we were fine, in terms of that cap, then suddenly were told ‘oh, no you’re not,’” Woolsey said.
To try to make up for this decline in income, Woolsey has taken a part-time job as a bookeeper, which she found by chance after months of searching for employment. She attained the job when a woman overheard her discussing her situation and experience in accounting. Woolsey and her housemates have also begun looking for three new roommates to lower their rent.
Despite these efforts, Woolsey says she will still have to rely largely on student loans, as do most graduate students.
“Everyone I know is just swamped under debt right now. Every year it’s just a little bit more and a little bit more and a little bit more,” she said.
Despite her dire situation, Woolsey is most saddened by the decline she sees in the quality of education at UCSC. She is frustrated that fee hikes are not offsetting the damage caused by cuts. She also expressed that as a graduate student, prospects in academia are dim.
“I’m really, really committed to the idea of public education, and teaching at a public university environment,” Woolsey said, but added, “It takes a toll on you going into an education system where you’re watching the quality of that education decline year to year. It’s a hard thing to commit to.”
Despite the hardships Woolsey and other graduate students face, she says that she would likely still choose the same path had she been able to foresee the future.
“I still want to teach. This is all I want to do … being able to teach is my absolute favorite part of grad school. It’s what I absolutely love.”
Amando Fremont* is an AB 540 student, or an undocumented citizen who is exempt from paying out-of-state fees which is over $10,000 more than in-state tuition. For Fremont, getting a college degree at UCSC in Community Studies may take longer than planned. A native from Mexico City, Fremont came to California at the age of three with his father, older brother and his uncle with aspirations of a better life.
After dropping out of the university twice due to the inability to finance the undergrad price tag, Fremont is still unable to enroll.
As an undocumented citizen he is kept from legally working and attaining many scholarships that require official identification. Today, he still struggles to pay off past debts he accumulated at the university in the Fall of 2007 and the Fall of 2008.
“For me, personally, it’s difficult. I can’t get financial aid and my family can’t afford to help me at all. I’ve been here on my own accord. And given that I can’t legally work, I’ve had to get creative with the way I get money,” Fremont said.
Like all undocumented students, Fremont is also ineligible for most UC financial aid packages. He therefore finances his education through private donations from individuals, who after hearing his predicament usually give him between one and 20 dollars. Any larger donations are a rarity.
“It’s lot of work to try and get money as it is … when you can’t work, and you can’t apply for financial aid, and you can’t apply for scholarships, and you are depending on private donors as your main means of support, you have to work that much harder to do it,” Fremont said. “And [private donors] are that much less willing to provide you that help because they’re of course feeling the same economic pressures as you are.”
In addition to using private donations for his future education, Fremont recently raised funds by participating in a bike tour from UCLA to UC Berkeley. He also speaks at community colleges about how to use the arts as a form of resistance for undocumented people, which bumps his income up at least $50 for each lecture he gives.
Meanwhile, Fremont teaches art voluntarily at a local charter school, where he values the opportunity to teach students from the ages of 13 to 65 on how to use art as a means of expression.
“What I teach … is using art to tell a story, so [my students] can rally people to support them in their cause … in their education,” said Fremont. “If you want people to rally behind your cause they need to know your story.”
He is uncertain when he will have the money to enroll at UCSC once again.
“I want to become a doctor in social science. I want to become a lawyer,” Fremont said. “My achievements start with school.”
*Names have been changed.