Photo by Toby Silverman.

What is it like to be only a citizen of the earth? Nineteen-year-old Lauren Dike can tell you. Dike, a self-proclaimed Californian, lived in the state for 17 years, but when she and her mother packed up and moved to Washington the summer before her senior year, her Californian classification was stripped from her. And here is the catch: Dike is not a resident of Washington, either.

“The state of California isn’t recognizing me, the state of Washington doesn’t recognize me — really I’m just a citizen of this earth right now,” Dike said.

After graduating from high school and receiving a diploma in Washington, Dike returned to California to attend UC Santa Cruz and was charged out-of-state tuition. Dike said that at the beginning of her freshman year at UCSC, she was told by the financial aid office that after living here one year, she would be considered a resident and charged in-state tuition. But the year came and went, fall quarter of 2011 rapidly approached and Dike was still not recognized as a California resident.

Being the daughter of a disabled vet and single mother, fronting the cost of out-of-state tuition was not an option. So Dike and her mother did what they could and appealed: first at the UCSC level, where it was denied, then at the UC Office of the President — straight to the top. At the UC level, the appeal was yet again denied and the case was closed for fall, forcing Dike to take a leave of absence.

“I’m 19 years old and not in school. I’m on a leave of absence and working two jobs,” Dike said. “It has been the most upsetting thing. I keep getting my hopes up and thinking I can go back to school, and then they tell me no.”

Among the litany of reasons for Dike’s frustration is the fact that she and her mother have both paid into the very system that is denying her access.

“I think I more than deserve to be part of the University of California system,” Dike said. “I am a byproduct of the California public education system. My taxpayer dollars have been helping other kids go to college and now they are not even helping me go.”

For Dike, a university education and the subsequent denial of that education carries that much more weight.

“All I have ever wanted to do is go to school,” Dike said. “I’m the first person in my family to go to college. Knowledge shouldn’t be costing this much money. It really hurts.”

Despite the disappointment and let down, Dike is maintaining a positive attitude, and with her mother alongside her, is continuing to fight. Currently no legal action has been taken against the UC, but Dike and her mother have been in contact with lawyers as far away as Washington, D.C. and expect this case will end up in court.

“We have done everything that we can do,” Dike said. “This is bigger than me and bigger than my mom. [We have] no choice but to have some big-league lawyer help us out.”

Dike said her fight for her education has inspired her to think of the big picture and her place in it.

“[The fight for education] is not just affecting me — it’s affecting all of us,” Dike said. “So many people do not have the opportunity to fight for their education, and I have this amazing opportunity to fight for mine.”

Dike hopes to pursue universal education in her post-collegiate career.

Dike remains positive about her situation and sees her particular struggle as exemplary of America’s main credo.

“If you want something bad enough you can go out there and get it,” Dike said, but added, with a nervous laugh, “I mean, that’s if it works out. If it doesn’t, I will be more than heartbroken — but I am being an optimist.”

Though Dike maintains her love for UCSC in particular, her opinion of the UC has not retained its initial luster.

“I started losing respect for the UC system as I watched my friends drop out because they couldn’t afford it,” Dike said. “I love UCSC itself, but the system it’s a part of … it’s disgusting. I’m not a name, I’m a Washington diploma.”

This, Dike said, does not bode well for her particular situation.

“When you’re broke and you can get more money out of someone,” Dike asked, “Why would you cut them a break?”