By Andrea Pyka

Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi expressed his concerns about the potential privatization of California universities during a Nov. 14 teleconference.

Garamendi took issue with rising student fees in both the California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) campuses, and proposed a halt on further fee increases.

“We are losing the value of having a publicly funded education,” Garamendi said. “We are moving towards private funding.”

According to a press release issued on Garamendi’s official website, since 2002, fees for undergraduate students at CSUs have increased up to 94 percent over the past five years and 84 percent for UCs, while the costs for graduate students has doubled.

Dennis Smith, vice president of the California Federation of Teachers, supports Garamendi’s efforts to stop the potential privatization of public universities in California.

Smith, who began his education at Sacramento State at a time when there were no fees, believes that the state is spending more money on prisons rather than higher education.

“Every one dollar that students spend [towards their tuition], the economy recovers three dollars,” Dennis said during the teleconference. “We can’t allow California to slip away any further.”

Lillian Tiaz, president of the California Faculty Association, said that due to the high costs and course cuts, many students can’t get into the classes that they need to graduate, thereby detracting from a student’s education while attending a specific university.

“Fees are going up, but the quality is going down,” Tiaz said. “Think of buying gas at the pump. You pay two-thirds, but at least you get a gallon. This is exactly the opposite with CSU and UC students. Students are paying more but they are getting less.”

Candace DesBaillets, UC Santa Cruz campus organizer for the California Public Interest Research Group (CalPIRG), said that the rise in student fees has affected many low-income students, ultimately forcing them out of college.

DesBaillets said that the average undergraduate student who pays their tuition costs with student loans will leave college with a loan debt of approximately $20,000, and that one-third of all low-income students work more than 35 hours a week to cover college costs.

“When students graduate with so much debt, it impacts the choices they make after they graduate,” DesBaillets said.

According to DesBaillets, CalPIRG is a student association that works in the public interest including fighting for affordable education, increasing financial aid and lowering loan interest rates.

“[CalPIRG] has never taken a position in support of student fee increases, since most of the public we represent would not support that,” DesBaillets said.

Valerie Sedig, a fourth-year student at UCSC, thinks that a lot of the increases in fees may be linked to the expansion of the campus.

“A lot of money is going towards making the university bigger. I like the university being small, but the fact is, the state is growing,” she said. “But if we stay small, then we won’t have enough room for incoming students. College is supposed to be accessible to everyone.”

While Sedig understands the necessity of public education, she still wonders where all of her money for tuition is going.

“Some things we don’t know what we are paying for,” Sedig said. “Like having [the university pay] one dollar for your tuition every time you take a metro bus. No one tells you about that.”

Garamendi said that one of the reasons that UC is underfunded is due to problems with the administration.

According to Garamendi, a lot of money is being spent on executive faculty rather than going towards students in the classrooms. He said that approximately 33 percent of the fee increases goes toward the salary increases to hire UC chancellors. However, it is due to the rise in fees that many students can no longer afford to attend four-year universities.

Dennis said that 1.6 million students don’t get to go to four-year universities because of present tuition fees, and 2.4 million students are prevented from even being admitted.

“It’s really the choice of what kind of state we want,” Tiaz said. “Do we want to support a state for higher education or a state that pulls the plug for citizens and students to get involved?”