PROVIDENCE JOURNAL: Rhode Island students rally against tuition hikes

May 6, 2010
Alicia A. Pina

Despite tuition increasing 46.6 percent over the last five years, professors and students at the Community College of Rhode Island say there are fewer services and not enough spots for even the mandatory core courses.

Jim Brady, the college’s outgoing student body president, said the situation — particularly the tuition hikes that don’t seem to have an end at all three of the state’s higher education institutions — is “completely disgusting” and counterproductive to helping the state build a 21st-century work force.

A call-to-action rally at the community college’s Knight Campus Wednesday afternoon was the first of several planned events to let the General Assembly know “enough is enough.” A petition is also circulating and a march to the State House is in the works.

The rally was sparsely attended, but the unified effort was evident with speakers from two of the three schools and all levels of the school communities — students, teacher assistants, professors and administration — as well as members of Ocean State Action, the political action coalition that helped coordinate the event.

“Any tuition increase can break the budget, prohibiting students from pursuing their dream of a college education and a better life,” said Denise Lazo, vice president of the community college’s faculty association. “… We need to become one voice. Enrolled at the three state institutions of higher education are a combined total of 43,000 students … There is strength in numbers.

“Forty-three thousand,” he said, “offers the potential for a very loud voice that can be charged to send a single message: the way to decrease the deficit, eliminate unemployment and stop foreclosures is to increase the percentage of our population that is college-educated. Let our legislators hear that they need to fund our public institutions of higher education and the tide will turn.”

URI graduate student and teacher assistant Jack Szczepanski said, “We’re given less and expected to do more. It doesn’t work. There’s more students per class, there’s less teacher assistants, it’s just a bad situation all around. We need change.”

Closing the one-hour rally, Nicholas Coutis, president of CCRI’s political science club, said, “No more. No more cuts. No more fees. No more tuition [increases]. We can’t take it anymore.”