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Tuition hike places burden on students

By Curtis Hierro
On August 29, 2012

On Monday, the first day of the semester, members of the Student Labor Action Project gathered at the entrance of the university with signs welcoming students back for the fall semester while informing them of the new price of attaining an education at UCF.

This past summer, Student Government Association president Cortez Whatley, who serves both on the campus board of trustees and state Board of Governors in his capacity as the head of the Florida Student Association voted to raise differential tuition by an additional 15 percent. This was after three years of consecutive differential tuition hikes.

To put this in perspective, Florida residents attending UCF full time as undergraduates are now paying $688 more per semester than they did for the 2009-2010 school year. For graduate students, whose full-time status is nine credit hours rather than twelve credit hours, the increase amounts to $516 per semester.

In one of his first major decisions, Whatley quickly betrayed his popular campaign slogan, Your vision, our mission. Instead, he promoted the mission of the UCF administration, which in the face of state budget cuts sought to push the entirety of the campus budget discrepancy onto the backs of students. After approving the 15 percent increase, Whatley claimed he had little alternative in the face of the state legislatures attacks on higher education.

While Gov. Rick Scott and Tallahassee politicians need to be held accountable, the same is true of the universitys power brokers including the administration and Whatley. As the student voice for our campus, Whatley had the duty and ability to show true leadership and stand up for students who have continually faced tuition hikes in an economic climate marred by unemployment, underemployment and decreasing financial aid opportunities.

Whatley had the power to vote down the tuition increase outright or at least negotiate a lower rate with administration. He could have shown true leadership and called for President John C. Hitt, who receives $200,000 a year from the state, in addition to matching private contributions, to take a hit in his salary as students are struggling to get by. Whatley could have called for the university to make cuts to its massive infrastructure budget or pull from its reserves to soften the blow.

Instead, he forced students to assume the full brunt of the cuts to score points with administration, all while throwing away the good will and hope of a student body that thought maybe Whatley would be better than the typical empty suits who serve in student government. Whatleys move ensured more students would be forced to bury themselves in student debt for a college education.This comes at a time when every element of the college experience has risen in price, from supplies to housing.

SLAP stands committed to ensuring the student voice is heard on this issue. We call on all students to stand up and let our campus representatives know, from student government to administration, that we will not stand idly by while our ability to attain a quality, affordable education is chipped away.

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