Tuition protest set for Madison

While freshman and suburban Milwaukee native Chris Nielson said his family does not have a problem paying his tuition, there are many close to his hometown who don’t have the same financial means to access higher education.

“If you go about 20 minutes from my house you will begin to reach people who … desperately want to send their kids through college,” Nielson said. “But when you keep raising tuition like we do and cut financial aid, what we’re saying to those families is that we’re not going to give you the same chance to move up in life.”

Nielson hopes to get at least 50 UW-Eau Claire students signed up to travel to Madison Feb. 24 and protest the rising tuition on the steps of the state capitol along with other students from the UW System.

Starting today, sign-up sheets are up in Davies Center to travel to the rally. With 50 people, Nielson said, the group can rent a bus to make the three-hour trek.

After the noon rally, participants will be lobbying their local legislators, “so that way they understand this issue impacts (students),” Nielson said.

On Feb. 9, two wooden doors were sent to UW-Eau Claire to be signed by students as part of the United Council’s “Keep UW Doors Open To All” 23-campus tour.

This is only the first step. It’s not like students have to be loud at once.”
Brian Tanner
Organizing and Communications Director, United Council

The doors will be “delivered to state legislators” at the rally Thursday, according to UC’s organizing and communications director Brian Tanner, who said meetings have been set up with the campus’ local legislators, including Rep. Rob Kreibich, R-Eau Claire.

Tanner said the UC’s only role was to finish the necessary paperwork for the rally in order for it to take place.

“The students have been hearing that legislators are saying that students are not vocal. Flat out, ‘students don’t care,'” Tanner said.

Tanner said he expects a large turnout, with students coming from as far away as Superior, Barron County and Marinette.

“This is only the first step. It’s not like the students have to be loud at once,” Tanner said. “We need students to be loud in April and May as well.”

Sophomore Aaron Brewster, who also will attend next Thursday’s rally, participated in education rallies when he was younger with his mother, who was a schoolteacher.

“It was kind of cool to see people taking issues that they care deeply about and going right to the source of the idiotic policy,” Brewster said.

“I see education as something that really needs to be invested in and a lot of people are cutting education all over in order to balance state budgets.”

Vice Chancellor for Student Development and Diversity Kimberly Barrett said she was not aware of the rally, but students should check with their professors on whether attending the rally would be an excused absence.

Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget proposal calls for a minimum tuition hike of 5.9 percent annually over the next two years. That minimum could increase as much as a 7 percent.

Nielson said while college tuition across the nation increases, Wisconsin spends less per capita then its neighboring states.

“I can understand from an economic standpoint in that since we do have inflation prices will increase,” Nielson said. “But rather than increasing according to inflation how much we need to, we are increasing and in doing so we are continuing to price out people who can’t afford it.”