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Daily Newscasts

Student Protest Movement Spreads to NY

March 5, 2012

ALBANY, N.Y. - From California to New York, there are signs of renewed unrest on American college campuses. Tuition hikes and soaring student loan debt are fueling much of the students' frustration. Sean Collins, a senior at SUNY Albany who is planning a protest today at the Capitol, says student power is the heart of the issue, with many undergrads feeling marginalized and not a part of the conversation.

"We've seen increases in our tuition, we've seen cuts in academic services and programs on campuses. We're also mad about the way the conversation takes place without any input, really, from the students."

The president of the SUNY Student Assembly serves as a voting member of the Board of Trustees, but Collins dismisses the effect of that, calling for more student input and influence. The protestors will press their case with teach-ins and meetings with elected officials.

Recent remarks by presidential hopeful Rick Santorum to the effect that President Obama is wrong to call for all Americans to pursue higher education are barely worthy of comment, Collins says.

"We should be talking about how we should be bringing tuition down, how we can make a university education or a college education as affordable as possible. The direction that tuition number should be moving toward is zero. Everybody needs an education. That's what we should be talking about."

Jonathan Saxton, Rochester, also a senior at SUNY Albany, feels lucky to be graduating soon, as tuition steadily rises.

"I'm not the most well-to-do around here, but I'm not the worst-off, either. There are some individuals here who've been, like, 'Okay, so the tuition goes up. That's rent money and food money that I need to contribute to my own family situation.' And they end up having to stop going to school."

A lot of New York's higher education woes could be solved by making the state's wealthiest pay their fair share in taxes, Collins says.

The students will start the day with a press conference and rally at the historical Million Dollar Staircase in the Capitol. They're symbolically re-naming it the "Millionaire Dollar Staircase" for the day.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY