Students have always been worried about our financial contribution to our education, but in the past few years we are more concerned about the nation’s investment in our future. We are paying more money for less because our tuition is rising but less tutoring services are being offered, majors are being cut, and class sizes are too big.
Materially, the impacts are getting much worse: less TAs, students have to sit on the floor in lecture halls, and food needs have had to increase so students are applying for food stamps. All of these pieces to our college experience are financially and emotionally draining.
This all means that student leaders, like myself, have to respond to the inactions of our state and congressional leaders because their choices are direct ramifications that hurt the country's economic health. Our experiences and our testimonies are real, and the decisions that are being made are making these stories less foreign. There is no other alternative and we don’t have anywhere else to go.
College to me means struggling every day to manage my studies, health, and work (no social life). I come from a low-income background, so I don’t have the luxury of calling home for help. And with today’s budget cuts I can’t turn to my campus for help either. These budgets cuts disproportionally effect students of color like myself, because they systematically force students of color out, and I am sure that other campuses have similar testimonies. The ramifications of this are vast, because we are loosing mentors and relationships. These budget cuts are devastating for our education and they are creating an agenda that does not serve the students.
These cuts have effected me to the point where staying an extra year to finish my second major is no longer an option. I am the first and last of my siblings to attend any college and it's discouraging that the services that brought me here won’t be accessible to other students because the TRIO program, which helps low-income and underrepresented youth access and complete college, is cut by $24 million.
These effects are beyond psychological. From my own personal testimony, usually being the only person of color in my class is very draining. And it is even more taxing because there is a lack of services that would help a student like me. It is hard to tell who would be graduating with the class they started with because it is more common to drop out of a four year university and go to a community college.
We can gain skills from learning to deal with the current challenges, however I would appreciate not having the burden of such drastic budget cuts as a result of poor legislative direction. These are just causing our pot of mitigating circumstance to over flow.
I understand that the solution is complex for this year’s 112th Congress. There are many things that we know, we know partnership from the students needs to increase. We do know everyone needs to discover and utilize new revenue resources. We do know that students are America’s future. And we do know that these effects will determinate the United States, yes we do know. But education is a selfless investment and Americans should have permanent financial and moral investments in its power. Education is a right!
Tiffany Dena Loftin is the student body president at the University of California in Santa Cruz.