The Occupy Wall Street movement that gained popularity as well as notoriety last fall, spurring thousands of imitators across the company to create their own “Occupy” opportunities, seems to have influenced a group of college students and labor unions in Sacramento. Students and activists protested on Monday at the state Capitol against the steady increase of the costs of higher education while budgets are being repeatedly slashed. While sixty-eight members of the protest were arrested after their refusal to exit the building after its evening closure, four others had been arrested earlier. One of the arrested parties was reportedly in possession of a switchblade.
As the price of admission and other educational costs increases, student discontent rises in equal proportions until eventually a protest such as this one seems inevitable. Tuition hikes, the price of which has increased to three times what it was a decade ago, seems to breed the most anger.
California governor Jerry Brown was not in attendance at the demonstration, though a representative spoke for him, urging his constituents to seriously consider his proposed tax hike that would, according to him, help out California institutions. These are the same schools who saw Brown cut much of their funding last year. Meanwhile, many Democrats were on hand to publicly lend their support to the movement, begging the police to be careful when making arrests.
The protesters, who numbered an estimated two hundred, made their way into legislative offices to take the opportunity to beg for an increase in funding. Others took to shouting out their demands. One of the most popular was a suggestion that millionaires be taxed, which may find its way onto the ballot come election season.
When the protesters neglected to vacate the building, as ordered by the highway patrol, many were arrested.
Public education, at the elementary, secondary, and higher level has been under much public scrutiny as of late. A report recently issued by the Federal Reserve describes in disquieting detail the amount of Americans with outstanding student loan debt. And a school shooting last week in Chardon, Ohio, has left many people reeling, and others with uncomfortable memories of a similar massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999. Meanwhile, the standardized tests required by George W. Bush’s administration as part of the No Child Left Behind initiative has many students, teachers, and school officials in a perpetual state of frustration.
The good news is that, despite tuition hikes, earning your degree is easier than ever, particularly with the prevalence of distance learning programs adopted by a growing number of community colleges and universities. A student who, thirty years ago, wouldn’t have the opportunity can now complete their health information management degree online. Higher education doesn’t necessarily have to be for the elite, though those rising costs may make it feel that way.
Even with the country in a troubled state regarding education, student activists continue to protest as they always do. This time, Americans will have to wait and see how effective a demonstration like the one in Sacramento will prove to be for the state of educational costs and fees.