Students Protest College Costs
February 20, 2009
This week, several groups of students have decided to take a new approach in attempting to reduce their college costs. Students in Minnesota and South Carolina both held rallies at their state capitols this week to try to influence their state legislature's decisions regarding their schools. Meanwhile, students at New York University have barricaded themselves inside a building on campus, refusing to come out until the university meets their list of demands. Each group has different requests, but most come down to money.
More than 200 students from state colleges and universities in Minnesota protested outside the State Capitol Wednesday. Many held signs stating their anticipated student loan debt (answers included $38,000 and "too much" according to an article in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune), while others gave speeches and encouraged their legislators to reject the governor's proposed budget cuts to higher education. Several legislators expressed solidarity with the students, and a newly formed student group plans further protests.
Students in South Carolina also urged their state legislature to make college funding a spending priority, though their actions were largely in protest to a proposed state tuition cap. Students expressed concern that their universities may need to sacrifice educational quality by cutting faculty or course offerings to deal with reduced funding. Students were concerned they'd wind up getting less for their money and possibly paying more money over time by taking longer to get the classes they needed to graduate. They urged the legislature to leave the power to set tuition in colleges' hands.
New York University had the most radical student protest and the lengthiest list of demands, with a small group of students taking over a cafeteria and demanding greater accountability and transparency in the university's budgeting process. The NYU students also wanted a tuition freeze, a union and better benefits for graduate student assistants, and according to one sign, "enough financial aid" for all students, among other things. The students and the university have been in an ongoing standoff since Wednesday night, with crowds of up to 300 students gathering outside the occupied building at one point yesterday.
Whether student rallies, protests, or sit-ins are the best means of funding your education is debatable. Students with activist inclinations who seek other routes to paying for college with better odds of immediate success should consider doing a scholarship search. There are numerous scholarship opportunities for students who are involved in their communities and interested in bringing about change, and they don't require presenting anyone with a list of demands.