from The Badger Herald

Friday, February 25, 2005

Students protest tuition hikes

by John Potratz

BRYAN FAUST/Herald photo

University of Wisconsin students delivered doors to legislators at the Capitol Thursday in protest of tuition increases proposed by Gov. Jim Doyle’s 2005-07 biennial state budget.

Organized by various student groups, including the United Council of UW Students and the MultiCultural Student Coalition, the rally brought disturbance to a usually composed atmosphere as nearly 150 students marched into the Capitol chanting, “Hey hey! Ho ho! Tuition hikes have got to go!”

Students from their respective UW System schools signed the doors delivered to Joint Finance Committee members in protest of tuition increases. The doors symbolized United Council’s agenda to “keep doors open to UW.”

Student members from various UW System schools lobbied for a tuition freeze, or to limit increases to at least 3 percent.

“We want to get that tuition number lower, right now we want to push to limit increases to 3 percent and then fight to [preserve] financial aid,” said United Council Legislative Affairs Director Renee Stieve.

The student protesters swarmed underneath the Capitol dome chanting and banging on the doors while others hung banners from the second-floor balcony.

“I work at McDonald’s 40 hours a week and am a full-time student and it’s really tough with tuition going up,” Jesse Nimmer, a UW-Fon du Lac freshman, said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

During the protest, legislators curiously looked down from upper balconies but kept their distance.

After a portion of the crowd moved on to chant and bang on doors outside the governor’s office, the Capitol teemed with students preparing to meet with Joint Finance Committee members.

In an effort to appease student demand, State Rep. Rob Kreibich, R-Eau Claire, who spoke at the rally, proposed a bill to limit increases to 3 percent.

“Your presence here today will send a powerful message to Legislature and the governor that no longer are we going to balance budgets on the backs of students,” Kreibich, chair of the Committee on Colleges and Universities, told the crowd.

Students responded with roaring ovation.

“Wisconsin has had a proud tradition where any student who did reasonably well in high school and was motivated would be provided opportunity to attend our colleges,” Kreibich said. “Unfortunately, that is no longer a reality.”

While many students were satisfied with a possible 3-percent cap on increases, some still believe a tuition freeze should be the ultimate goal.

“Even 3 percent is too high,” Josh Healey, UW junior, said. “My position, and the position of a lot of students, is that we need to roll back tuition to what it was before [Governor] Doyle took office.”

Despite varied opinion on the specific goal of limiting tuition increases, everyone attending the rally, including United Council representative Austin Evans, agreed there is still a long way to go.

“Today was a good day, we had a chance to meet with members of the Joint Finance Committee which is a good step, [but] it doesn’t stop with today,” Evans said.

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