SQE discusses CSU funding gap and the tuition hike with Nelsen


Vincent Moleski - The State Hornet

Jorge Quintana, a leader with Students for Quality Education, leads a crowd in chants at a roundtable discussion in the Global Lounge on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. Quintana is recruiting students for an April 4 protest about state funding of the CSU.

Students for Quality Education held a roundtable discussion on Tuesday in the Global Lounge regarding issues affecting students, such as the CSU funding gap, the upcoming tuition hike, and student insecurity.

Students aired their grievances, ranging from climbing education costs to the length of time it takes to graduate while working. Many of the students who spoke were the first in their family to go to college or members of immigrant families.

Katherine Bahena-Benitez, a student who spoke up during the discussion, said that if the tuition is raised, many students will be priced out of college, like one of her friends was.

“Low-income students, with the increase in tuition, they will struggle so much more than those that can actually afford to pay, they are getting the foot forward into their careers, into their jobs,” Bahena-Benitez said. “Those that can’t afford to pay for these tuition increases will stay behind, and then that creates that marginalized identity.”

[su_carousel source=”media: 40090,40088,40084,40083″ limit=”98″ link=”lightbox” width=”1600″ height=”900″ items=”1″ title=”no” pages=”yes” autoplay=”0″ speed=”400″][su_carousel source=”media: 36168,36123,36121,36118,36113,36110,36109,36108″ limit=”98″ width=”1400″ height=”1000″ items=”1″ title=”no” autoplay=”0″ speed=”400″][su_carousel source=”media: 34486,34485,34484,34483,34482,34481,34480,34478,34477″ limit=”98″ width=”1280″ height=”720″ items=”1″ autoplay=”0″ speed=”400″ title=”yes”]”[/su_carousel]

President Nelsen, who was in attendance, offered his sympathies to those who had shared their stories and struggles with the crowd of students, faculty, and administration.

“I know how hard it is, I know how hard you struggle. I’ve had a lot of you in my office and I’ve talked to you about it” Nelsen said. “I think they’re real stories and I think important and powerful stories that need to be heard in the state legislature and need to be heard in the news.”

At one point during the discussion, Yuliana Guzman, a student at Sac State, asked if Nelsen would move from his seat in the back of the audience to the front of the room. Nelsen complied.

“I like to look at people in the face when my pockets are being affected, and I thought I saw him on his phone and you know, it’s rude,” Guzman said. President Nelsen was in fact on his phone during a couple of student testimonies.

The SQE is planning a protest against the CSU funding gap at the state capitol on April 4, and although they have asked Nelsen to allow students to skip class on that day and to attend himself, he did not offer a definitive answer to either of those questions.

Although he did not plan to speak at the event, Nelsen brought up the Student Emergency Fund as a valuable resource, which can award students in need up to $1500 per semester.

In response to a student comment made about the lack of financial aid typically available during the summer semester, Nelsen said students will be able to use Pell Grants to help pay for their tuition for the first time this summer.

Between student testimonials, Jorge Quintana, a leader within SQE, intermittently led the crowd in rallying cries and chants to protest the upcoming tuition hike.

“One in five, one in ten, underfunding needs to end. One in five, one in ten, we need to eat and sleep again,” Quintana chanted with the crowd, making reference to recently released CSU statistics showing student food and housing insecurity at rates even higher than that.

Nicki Mehta, an education professor at Sac State who brought her class to join in the discussion, said that she will be canceling class on April 4 in order to encourage student attendance at the Capitol.

“This is long term, this is about the treatment of higher education as a corporation or as a business model,” Mehta said. “I’m trying to empower the students to feel like they have a voice.”

Nelsen, in his closing comments, echoed this sentiment.

“The voices of the students need to be heard right now, and you have voices and you have votes,” Nelsen said. “I am advocating every day for full funding and I will continue to advocate every day for full funding for you.”