Special Topic

Why We Occupy: Because College Used To Be Virtually Free In California

Today, students at four different University of California (UC) campuses will engage in marches, strikes, and other actions intended to protest against plans to possibly raise tuition even further at state schools. In preparation for the protests, the UC Board of Regents has decided to meet at several different locations and hold the meeting via teleconference.

In protesting against even further tuition hikes, these students are not demanding a utopian world, as many of their critics may claim. In fact, for many years — dating back to the 19th century — California schools did not even charge tuition. Rather, students would be required to pay a few small student fees at most. When Gov. Ronald Reagan (R) took office, he insisted on imposing a new fee that would later become synonymous with tuition, thus ending California’s tradition of providing virtually free education to qualified college students. Since then, tuition has slowly skyrocketed, eclipsing the ability of many middle class Californians to get an affordable education.

The blog Dr. Housing Bubble visualizes the massive spike in college tuition that has occurred over the years, comparing it to the collapse of the housing bubble and showing how tuition has gone up even as one of Americans’ main sources of wealth was decimated:

With annual UC tuition already reaching $12,192 with possible further hikes on the horizon, it isn’t at all surprising that students are taking to the streets and their campuses to demand an affordable education. After all, more than a century ago, college was virtually free in the state, when it was far less prosperous. The real question is, why aren’t even more students out protesting?