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COGS holds surcharge protest

BY LAUREN MILLS | DECEMBER 09, 2009 7:30 AM

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As the number of students and textbooks sitting at the brown tables in the Old Capitol Town Center grew on Tuesday, members of the graduate-student union encouraged passersby to voice their opinions on a potential $100 UI surcharge fee.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students lobbied students to send e-mails asking state Board of Regents members to reconsider imposing a $100 extra fee on next semester’s tuition. Around 40 students sent e-mails.

The group lined six laptops up on tables, with templates opened, allowing students to quickly sign their name and send the letter from their personal e-mail account, said Sarah Ekleberry, the vice president of COGS.

“The union feels the university is kind of trying to gut education,” said Ekleberry, a graduate student in health and sports studies, and she does not believe the surcharge would be an effective way to bandage the gap in state funding.

The regents will vote on the surcharge Thursday.

Officials said the surcharge, a one-time $100 fee for full-time students, should raise roughly $5.9 million in the three state universities.

Regent Robert Downer supports imposing the surcharge because of the immediacy of the universities’ budget cuts, and he said the e-mail campaign probably wouldn’t change his mind.

“This is a bona fide emergency,” he said.

Instead, Downer believes lowering the potential 6 percent tuition increase for next year would be more feasible.

Some students most affected could include the many international graduate students at the UI, said Gyorgy Toth, the international student representative for COGS.

For most of these students, he said, the university provides their main source of income; strict immigration laws limit outside employment for such students.

“I can’t just go out and get money for this surcharge by working nights at McDonald’s,” said Toth, who is from Hungary. “If I tried to do that, I would get deported.”

UI senior Claudia Taylor, who sent an e-mail, said she is paying for her out-of-state tuition on her own.

“It may seem like it is only $100,” she said. “But I already take out a lot of loans, and with interest rates, $100 will go a lot deeper than just $100.”

Taylor said she doubts the regents will consider her request to reconsider the surcharge.

However, some students said they were not concerned about the surcharge.

“I have other concerns related to being a graduate student,” said LeDon Sweeney, a graduate student and English TA.

But members of COGS said they think the campaign could sway the vote. At their October meeting, the regents approved the UI’s proposal for cutting its budget by a small majority, 5-4, but decided to postpone the surcharge vote until this week’s meeting.

“If students are dissatisfied, maybe they will go somewhere else,” said Bill Peterson, the president of COGS. “Drops in enrollment never look good, and then you don’t just lose $100, you lose that entire tuition.”


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