Who Asked Us? SFSU Student Sounds Off on Tuition Hikes

Who Asked Us? SFSU Student Sounds Off on Tuition Hikes

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Editor’s Note: Recently, the California State University board of directors announced that with mounting budget cuts they may be forced to raise the cost of tuition. Marian Piansay, a 20-year-old student at San Francisco State University, shares her frustration with obtaining her college degree amid the slew of budget cuts and how the tedious struggle has changed her overall educational goals.

During my time at university, I have seen many students opt to pursue their university education at the community college level, split class loads between two or more schools, transfer to schools abroad (even as far away as the Philippines), or simply change majors in order to pursue their educational goals.

That’s the kind of environment California State University students are facing right now.

I have witnessed and experienced firsthand the inability to register for classes both in my major, as well as for general education requirements that I need in order to graduate. I have also seen the progressive tuition rise at San Francisco State University (SFSU). I cannot count the number of times that tuition has risen at SFSU since I’ve been there beginning in the fall of 2008.

My dad, knowing the challenges of a CSU education, strongly encouraged me to attend community college after high school in order to save money and get general education units out of the way. However, I was so determined to go to SFSU after high school that I refused to listen to any of his quips about giving up on a CSU education.

I was a "college snob" back then, in the sense that I was unaware of the similarities in curriculum and opportunities that community colleges and state universities offer. I didn't think community college was good enough, and I thought I would be able to obtain my bachelor's degree in four years.

Of course, I was naive and misinformed.

Back then, I was also unaware of the budget cuts looming in the CSU/UC system in California. The cap on acceptances at the CSU/UC system is very real and affects thousands of hopeful applicants every year. Despite good academic standing and completion of transfer requirements, schools have a limit on how many students they can accept.

Initially, I registered as a Nursing major and didn't take the issues seriously as I hadn't yet felt the strain of a rising tuition, or the inability to register for necessary classes. Ultimately, it hit me and I decided to switch from Nursing to Sociology and Early Childhood Education for a number of reasons.

Time management was difficult for me, as I was unable to pursue straight A's while also working 25+ hours a week. I was also struggling in anatomy and physiology (requirements for nursing), and I could not get myself to buckle down and focus on these subjects, not least because I had less and less time to study in any given day. I am the type of person who makes an effort to get good grades in school. I had a GPA of 3.8 in high school and 3.2 in college. I may not be a straight-A student in college, but doing well academically has always been of great importance to me. With my grades deteriorating while I was trying to focus on imperative subjects for my future career, I decided that nursing was not the path for me.

I also felt the strain of expectation put on me, on a constant basis. In fact, a great-aunt of mine came to my workplace earlier today and asked me how school was going. I told her that I didn't intend on completing my bachelor's in nursing. She, being a nurse, was surprised, as I'm sure all my relatives will be when they find out my educational transition. For eight years, all of the members of my family were convinced that nursing was the career for me.

I have to say, having transitioned majors around five months ago, it has been incredibly difficult and disappointing, personally, to know that my parents are not fully accepting of my decision. I am aware they wanted (and expected) me to enter a profession where I would be able to support myself financially, and never fear having to work two jobs or lose my position in times of economic woe. However, I also know that they both saw the frustration and lack of motivation that was building in me as I was pursuing nursing as my career.

With all the other challenges I was facing, dealing with tuition just amplified the problems. I have a federal unsubsidized loan to pay for my tuition, which I had applied for during my last semester of high school, and which has been in effect since my first semester of college. In total, my loan (since the beginning of attendance at SFSU in Fall 2008), has a little less than $10,000 under my name. Without the loan, I would not be able to afford tuition at a post-secondary institution.

But even with the loan, I now have to work full-time to subsidize my education and make up for other financial issues in our family. Though my parents are helping me by paying for books (my student loan only covers the cost of tuition and university fees), we are in a sort of financial bind. My mother was unemployed (up until recently) for two years when the company she worked for was bought out by a larger corporation, laying off hundreds of the staff employed in various branches of the company.

Fortunately, I had a part-time job three years ago that became a full-time job in February of 2011, which is a major asset in assisting me with personal expenses and even a small share of my parents’ monthly bills.

With news that tuition will reach $2,844 for Fall 2011, and talk of tuition going up to $7,400 for Spring 2012 (a jump of over 200%!), I am definitely worried.

I also worry about the fact that I had to leave my nursing studies. The economy is not at its peak point these days, and finding a secure job with benefits is not guaranteed with the choice of studies I have chosen to invest in. However, I am fortunate enough to have a current job that I recently have made plans to move up in, and continue as a secondary means of financial support for myself after college.

With the lack of classes available for students, the combining of departments to save money, the ever-rising tuition costs and no record for where all this money is going, I also worry about something else: when will I graduate?