A Public Education: The Best Money Can Buy, If You Can Afford It

By Hatty Lee Dec 02, 2009

The music, the slow motion effects, the last glance from the student leaving her dorm room… I’ll admit it, I got a little choked up at the end of this video. Made by students at UC San Diego, their message is definitely on point—higher education should not be a luxury only the rich and privileged can afford. The point of the UC system is to make college accessible and affordable to anyone qualified, especially students of color. According to 2008-2009 UC San Diego data, 64 percent of the undergrads are students of color and about 55 percent of full-time undergrads received some type of financial aid. But as UC and CSU tuition fees continue to increase and deeper cuts are made into the budget, I wonder who will make up the incoming Fall 2010 student body. Let me break down the numbers. Back in May, CSU students faced a 10 percent tuition hike. Now, there is another 20 percent increase. This makes the 2009-2010 tuition fee for California resident undergraduates about $4,026 per year, not including the additional fees of housing and books. Compare that with the tuition of about $2,334 per year that CSU undergrads paid in 2004. UC students face a 32 percent increase in tuition. The fee hike will happen in two stages—first this 2010 Winter quarter and then again in Fall 2010. The estimated tuition fee is about $3,494 for the winter quarter and $11,287 for the 2010-2011 academic year. This does not include the approximate $14,000 for housing, campus fees and books. In 2004, UC undergrads paid about $5,684 per year. All I can say is DAMN. I think about my brother attending San Jose State University, just barely getting (overcrowded) classes as it is. Months back, we were texting each other during a weekday. And me wondering why he wasn’t in class that day. Another furlough day, he texted me—one of many. I just hope he makes it through. In these days of high unemployment rates, where Black male graduates from Yale can’t get a job, what is going to happen to the thousands of students of color who can no longer afford to attend college?