from The Daily Cardinal - 2/25/05

UW System students rally for lower tuition

By Amanda McGowan

College students around Wisconsin gathered on the steps of the Capitol Thursday to protest a proposed 14 percent tuition increase in Governor Doyle's biennial budget. The protesters held doors signed by students from various UW System schools and marked with "Keep UW Doors Open 2 All." These doors were delivered to Joint Finance Committees that met with student representatives of state schools.

The United Council of UW Students led the protest. In August, the organization decided to support a tuition increase if it was less than 5 percent and coupled with an investment from the state. The proposed consecutive increases of five to 7 percent apiece warranted protest for an increase of five percent or less. Schools such as UW-Madison were fighting for a tuition freeze as well.

According the United Council, tuition has almost doubled in the past four years. In the 2002-2003 academic year, a UW-Madison student was paying $3,854 a year; by 2006-2007 students will be paying $6,016.

According to United Council President Stephanie Hilton, "Students are paying more and getting less."

One protest participant was UW-Rock County freshman Gina Castro. Castro is working toward a degree while being a single mother to her teenage children.

"If they increase tuition, I won't be able to even get my two-year associate degree. In four years, my children will be entering college, and it will make it more difficult for them because we are poor," Castro said.

While the protestors were fighting against the tuition increases Doyle proposed, they found some aspects of his budget favorable.

"We need to protect the funding that is in the Governor's budget," Hilton said. Doyle has budgeted $21 million in financial aid funding.

State Rep. Rob Kreibich, R-Eau Claire, spoke on behalf of UW-Eau Claire and discussed a proposed alternative to Gov. Doyle's budget. This alternative would cap tuition at 3 percent.

"Our work begins today. We need to keep the pressure on," Kreibich said. "Today is a great beginning."

"Keeping financial ability is the best way to assure a bright future," said state Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison. "A cut in higher education is a cut to job creation and the economy in Madison."

After hearing speeches from various representatives of UW schools, the protestors took their doors from the steps of the Capital inside chanting "We are the students ... fighting for justice and education."

Inside, student representatives of four and two-year campuses attended their respective Joint Finance Committee meetings to lobby for lower tuition.

According to UW-Madison junior and member of the Multicultural Student Coalition Joshua Healey, "[The protest] is a good start. We got legislators to come meet with us. Our message is starting to be heard."

But Healey says while a tuition freeze would be an improvement, tuition needs to decreased.

"They are making the university a gated community," Healey said.

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