Students protest tuition hikes


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Protesters shivered as they grasped signs and shouted at a rally against potential tuition increases.

Chants of “We have a mission: Don’t raise tuition” rang throughout the Pentacrest on Feb. 11, when roughly 40 people — led by Students for Affordable Education — gathered for the protest.

“If we don’t show up, if we don’t do anything, people think we’re OK with how it is,” said the group’s spokesman, Shay O’Reilly, who is also The Daily Iowan’s Opinions editor. “They think that we’re OK with just sitting back, letting them increase tuition every single year when all of us are going into debt.”

O’Reilly expressed concern about looming debt after graduation.

“How many of you guys are worried about getting a job or career that’s fulfilling and pays off your debt when you graduate?” O’Reilly asked the crowd. All raised their hands.

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Officials have proposed a 5 percent tuition increase for in-state UI students for 2011-2012 and a 6 percent increase for out-of-state students. The state Board of Regents is set to vote on the proposal at its March meeting.

Sen. Brian Schoenjahn, D-Arlington, head of Iowa’s education-appropriations subcommittee, said the legislators are listening.

He said he understands how expensive college is for students today.

“These are middle-class families struggling to make ends meet,” he said. “Tuition is a very big item in a lot of families’ budgets.”

Schoenjahn said he is aware of student protests and suggested students also write editorials to various newspapers.

Students should also contact their legislators, said University of Iowa Student Government President John Rigby, who spoke from a park bench at the rally.

“When our lawmakers went to school, they were standing on the shoulders of a pretty helpful state delegation,” Rigby said. “People were funding them at adequate levels. We’re standing on the shoulders of ourselves.”

He said the tuition increases are more than a partisan issue.

“It’s about the future of our state, the future of our country, and the future of everyone that’s gathered right here,” he said.

Several other students also spoke at the rally about how they will be affected by higher tuition.
UI junior Jeromy Sonne, a self-described conservative, said he agreed with Rigby’s statements about party unity to combat low state appropriations for higher education.

“This is nonpartisan; this is just bullshit,” Sonne said.

Interim Provost P. Barry Butler said the UI administration thinks very carefully about tuition and its effect on students.

“The use of the money is directed straight back to the students’ learning,” he said. “We have tried very hard to keep Iowa a high quality educational buy.”

Kari Thompson, the president of the UI Campaign to Organize Graduate Students, spoke at the rally to demonstrate the organization’s support for undergraduates efforts. Thompson’s group is fighting its own tuition battle, lobbying the state Board of Regents to pay 100 percent of TAs’ tuition.

“This has been going on for far too long and affecting too many people,” she said. “And really making it much more difficult for people to be able to get a public, affordable education.”

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