“Stop the hikes!” is the rallying cry you may have heard last Tuesday upon walking past the Georgia State University courtyard. An 11:30 walkout by Occupy GSU, an organization petitioning against rising tuitions costs, reduction of library hours and faculty cuts hoped students and faculty would leave class to join their protest. You didn’t miss anything.
According to the Occupy GSU mission statement, the organization desires to “take our power back from the university, back from the apathy of the Regents, back from the corruption of the government.” This statement implies suppression by said university, the Regents and government. To be suppressed is to be robbed of your rights.
It is not a right to attend GSU. It’s a privilege. Those who rant and rave over tuition hikes can attend another institution, find employment or raise funds via a scholarship or loan. Plus, the allegations of “apathy” and “corruption” are a failed attempt to make the Regents and the university administration seem like the bad guys. Both entities are simply doing the best they can with the resources available, primarily money.
Although the walkout is symbolic of dissatisfaction with the status quo, nothing can be done. The reality is that the state is dealing with an educational funding crisis.
The state will spend for the 2012 fiscal year approximately $650 million, according to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. Over the years, it’s has implemented fee and tuition hikes as passed by the Regents, to compensate for the lack of tax revenue due to the lasting effect of the economic depression. The majority of that budget is supplied by HOPE scholarship, which is bleeding money quickly.
The disadvantage of attending a public institution is its financial vulnerability to market swings and tax revenue losses, unlike private institutions who often enjoy large endowments and massive tuition revenue. However, a public institution provides a solid, affordable education. Georgia State students are lucky. Not only is the price to raise their human capital low, but because they live in a country that subsidizes education, there are many alternative funding options to help pay for it.
A full-time instate GSU student paid almost $4000 this semester for his or her education, $1000 of which were for fees, as listed by the Division of Student Affairs. If this same student maintains a 3.0 gpa, he or she is eligible for a HOPE scholarship disbursement of $2500 per semester, according to Georgia College 411. In addition, the student can be awarded up to $7500 per year from Department of Education as a Direct Stafford loan, payable post-graduation.
Part of the reason the organization has not been as successful with this movement is because of the myriad of ways funding is available. Most students know this and even if they complain, not many will voice feelings of being ripped off.
More complaints are about Occupy GSU than the tuition hikes.
The tactics used by the organization are controversial. The point of disruption is to raise awareness in the hope people will act to effect change. However, when the disruption instead hurts the people it’s trying to help, it invites more critiques rather than support. Many students have complained about Occupy GSU tactics including dancing and singing in the library, blocking traffic on Courtland and disrupting classes by passing out fliers. This doesn’t help the organization in getting students’ support by violating the very educational environment they are defending.
Instead of blocking traffic and disrupting the educational environment of students, a better use of Occupy GSU’s time is to propose an adequate solution for the fiscal crisis. Petition instead for more money being allocated to Georgia’s educational budget. Go to the Regent’s meeting and ask for pay cuts at the administrative level. Take actions that directly speak to the decision-makers instead of the courtyard pigeons.
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image by: Rob