The future for sale: UC tuition increase is bad news
While Ferguson plunges deeper into chaos, here in California the overlords of our university system have announced that anyone seeking a higher education will now have to face higher, greater fees. The devouring beast of capitalism, dressed in a monocle and top hat, has announced that UC fees will be raised by 5% every year for the next five years. Last Thursday the vote was carried out by the state's regents committee which in a 7-2 showing of hands voted for the rate increase. Our heroic governor, Jerry Brown voted against, in a feat typical of the modern Democrat: Speak, but don't act, look good, but then recede into oblivion. And while there have been sit-ins at Berkeley, and one pathetic "walk out" at UCLA, it is a bit surprising to see the lack of visceral reaction from students.
While the Ferguson case understandably generates sympathy and anger, and the conditions of urban areas in Los Angeles should be addressed, education is one of the great determining factors for the stability and advancement of a society.
Communities all around the world fall into the void of inequality precisely because basic needs such as education and healthcare are made either unaccessible or not accessible enough. This is why when radical governments have taken power all through out history, one of the first moves they made were to grant free education to their peoples.
According to the Los Angeles Times, tuition for undergraduates who are California residents could rise to $12,804 next year not counting room and board. By 2019 the cost could be more than $15,000. This will be the reality for students at a time when the aftershocks of the recent recession are still being felt and long-term, professional employment remains scarce. Luckily, avenues of help such as financial aid remain in place. But this won't be enough, especially for students who have to, you know, provide for themselves.
As writers like Chris Hedges have detailed in books such as "Death Of The Liberal Class," American society, in particular students, are finding themselves forced into a state of debt peonage. I interviewed Hedges last year during a talk he gave in Santa Monica. After the talk Hedges pointed out to me that if students in France faced the kind of tuition hikes seen in the U.S., they would revolt and shut the whole country down. Now consider that California remains the world's 6th largest economy. If a European industrial power like Germany can provide free education for its people and even international students, surely the wealthiest state in the world's remaining (for now) superpower can do the same.
The idea of free education sounds radical in a society like the United States, where the ideals of individual competition still reign supreme within a harsh, capitalist system. But such ideals do nothing but create a predatory, selfish society where students are thrown into debt, fight like hyenas over scholarships and are then thrust into a world where a Phd is a necessity, but where job opportunities are few.
According to the Bureau Of Labor Statistics, unemployment among 18 to 29 year-olds in 2014 stood at 15.9 percent, double the national average while for African Americans it stands at 23 percent and for Latinos 16.6 percent. These same statistics are expected to now pay more every year to learn the professional skills to attempt to join the national workforce.
California students planning to protest the Ferguson verdict should also aim their anger at the system putting a big price tag on their future. It connects to Ferguson because lack of opportunities breeds communities in disarray, lost in crime and social inequality. Maximilien Robespierre, one of the icons of the French Revolution, once stated that "the secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant."
Sit-ins and discussions are not enough, students should begin to think and form ideas, and then they should make demands. In May 1968 the students of Paris revolted, they set their city aflame as soon workers joined them and nearly overthrew the government of Charles DeGaulle. One of their slogans rings true today, "be realistic and demand the impossible."