An Alternative State of the Union
University of Central Florida 2012
Why were you just handed this pamphlet? The State of the University, by some metrics, is strong. Just this year, UCF has moved up 3 slots to number 147 in US News and World Report’s top university rankings and managed to score the number 4 spot in that same publication’s top 5 upand-coming universities list. Our professors continue to collect prestigious awards and our commitment to green technology is next to none. We have written this Alternative State of the University not because we wish to detract from the image of the school. In fact, it is partly because of our university's impressive achievements and rising stature that we feel it is pertinent to discuss these issues. UCF should be setting a national standard and leading the rest of the country by example in every aspect of university life. We have sought to address these issues with President Hitt and President Whatley only to be scoffed at by one and avoided by another. So now we want to meet you, the interested public: those who wish to see our school succeed and do right by its community. This Alternative State of the University will seek to address some areas which we feel do not get the attention they deserve at events like these. In fact it is our hope that by elucidating these points, putting forth potential building blocks for reform and inviting dialogue we can not only continue to win the attention of national publications and institutions, but uplift and empower UCF as a whole.
The Tuition Hike/Student Loan Cycle (Is Bad) Attending university today is seen largely as an investment. You pay to attend a university and you come out the other end with a degree and the knowledge it takes to begin a career and become a productive contributor to the economy and society. Over the last 30 years alone, the cost of a college education has increased by roughly 400% (1) nationally and the amount of students going into debt for a diploma has risen from 45% in 1993 to 94% today (2). This year, SGA President Cortez Whatley was the deciding vote on the Florida Board of Governors (the board that oversees all state schools) to raise tuition another 15% (3). The lone, supposed, student voice on the governing body of the university system in the state of Florida stuck his fellow students with another 15% increase. How is raising tuition in the interest of students, especially in 2012, the same year student debt hit a trillion dollars nationally? Yes, Florida’s state school system has seen cuts, but don’t let yourself be fooled. UCF currently sits on 158 MILLION dollars in reserves (4). Could administration be bothered to draw from these reserves to cushion the blow for students in these hard economic times? Nope. Speaking of administration, have they tightened their belts so the burden could at least seem to be shared? No. We continue to raise incredible buildings on campus, but if we continue to raise already incredible tuition costs, then we will be hard pressed to find students to fill them. Yes, financial aid is available. However, Bright Futures has seen significant decreases each year and now only covers a piddling fraction of what it once did. It doesn’t take a math major to realize that the returns on the 100%/75%/50% scholarships we were promised, the ones we earned, are diminishing. The math hasn't added up in a while. There are always loans, but it is the position of the writers of this pamphlet that the student loan industry is an insidious and dangerous extortion racket. With loans outstanding reaching $1,000,000,000,000 last year, it’s no wonder that publications like Forbes point to student loans as the next bubble to pop (5). Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest student loan provider, takes the profits from our payments and actively lobbies against the interests of students and on behalf of higher fees and more crippling restrictions. In the first and second quarters of 2012, Sallie Mae spent $1,770,000 on lobbying the US Congress in opposition to student loan reform (6). Take the ironically named “Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act of 2005” as an example of what corporate lobbying can buy for shareholders. The provision that Sallie Mae fought so hard for was one which prevents the discharge of student loan debt through bankruptcy. Sallie Mae was one of the 53 organizations who donated the maximum $250,000 to President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign who went on to sign this bill into law, not to mention the amount spent on Congressmen who wrote it. Did your business upstart go belly up? Has illness plagued your body and your pocket book? As the name implies, bankruptcy protection is a way to start fresh, a drastic measure of last resort. Yet unlike any other type of debt, student loan debt will not be discharged.
We, as students of the University of Central Florida, are proud to have the privilege to attend an institution of higher learning. We are aware of all the sacrifices that have been made by our parents, and view higher education as a tool to help us develop as leaders, visionaries, and overall productive members of society. However, in our current system, the question we need to ask ourselves is what power do we have as students?
It is the students that pay thousands upon thousands of dollars in tuition; it is we who are collectively amassing trillions of dollars in debt. You would think that those who have the most invested would have the authority to decide what happens on our campus. This wouldn’t happen in any other institution in our country, so why does it happen in our education system?
It is clear that the student debt bubble wasn’t created in a day, and there isn’t one sole person or institution to blame. But one thing is certain: student debt probably wouldn’t have surpassed credit card debt if students hadn’t been pushed out of the dialogue surrounding their issues. Student Oversight We want a university that encourages student oversight into what businesses come onto our campus, not a university that doesn’t ask students before bringing bigoted companies like Chick Fil A into the heart of our campus (7). The only soda options on our campus are from Coca Cola, a company that has amassed huge profits but has murdered labor organizers who wanted better working conditions in their South American factories. Coca Cola has also contributed greatly to the pollution of the water in many South American nations (nations where UCF Knights are from). We want a university that allows students into the decision making process about who does business on our campus. We want a campus that is good to its workers! Workers are required to purchase an employee parking permit, which costs $96.90 a semester - nearly one hundred dollars to simply park their car while they work. Some workers in the past have not been provided with walkie-talkies and have often had to use their own cell phones to contact other workers. Some had to use their own pre-paid minutes without being reimbursed by the university. First aid kits, if available in their workplace, may not be filled with the basic necessities and are commonly under stocked. The lowest paid worker in 2010 made $11,275, just barely over the poverty line (8). We want a campus that supports workers, that provides a living wage and good jobs to the people who keep our university running. We want an administration and student government association that is committed to keeping the costs low and the burdens off the student – not an SGA President and university President that vote for the maximum tuition increase possible. We want to be part of a national movement working aggressively to keep student debt down as university costs rise and the job market continues to be unstable. We want a university that’s filled with the best and brightest – we don’t want to pay into the “debt for diploma” model. Basically, we want a campus where you (yes, YOU!) can make decisions. UCF is massive, and with lots of people, we’re bound to come up with some pretty big ideas that can revolutionize the way this campus works and make it better for everyone who participates in our UCF community (especially YOU)!
So how can we get all this? By joining USSA, of course! United States Student Association is an organization comprised of and led solely by students. USSA’s main goal is to increase the student voice on issues common to us all – those that affect young people, such as student debt and funding for public education. They do this in two ways: Locally USSA places a focus on creating shared governance. This means creating state and/or university policies that provide students the right to actively govern and participate in major decisions at every level of university life – including the ability to select our own student representatives to be at the decision making table. Nationally When a USSA representative was chosen to be on a legislative board to speak for the students, he advocated for repayment options for student borrowers, consolidating federal loans and student debt forgiveness after 20 years. (When our UCF representative was chosen to be on legislative board to speak for the students, he voted to increase our tuition 15%.)
• USSA lobbied to not only protect the Pell grant when it was threatened, but increase its funding. • USSA worked with Congressman Hansen Clarke on the introduction of H.R. 4170, “The Student Loan Forgiveness Act of
• USSA advocates for a “10-10” student loan debt repayment option: if you make payments equal to 10% of your discretionary
income for ten years, the remainder of your student loan debt will be forgiven.
• USSA advocates for capping federal student loan interest at 3.4%.
With admission into USSA, we can begin to repair the foundations of the student/worker/administration relationship and mold it into something more responsive for future generations at UCF. If you’re a student seeking a brighter future for yourself and for future generations of students, look for the folks dressed in red carrying the clipboards. They carry the petition to hold a referendum on USSA admission. Tell your friends! Remember, if it weren’t for the students, there wouldn’t be a University of Central Florida. In support? Sport our red patches as a sign of discontent with the status quo, and solidarity with reform!
----------------------------------------------------------------------------Citations: 1. Higher Education May Soon be Unaffordable for Most Americans. New York Times. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/03/education/03college.html?_r=0) 2. Debt for Diplomas: The Sallie Mae Model. Student Labor. (http://www.studentlabor.org/2012/05/22/debt-for-diplomas-the-sallie-mae-model/ 3. Cortez Whatley Wins Fight to Hike UCF Tuition 15% Amid Student Backlash. Knight News. (http://knightnews.com/2012/06/cortez-whatley-fights-to-hikeucf-tuition-amid-student-backlash/)) 4. Florida Universities Face $300 Million Dollar Budget Cut. Orlando Sentinel. (http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-03-06/features/os-florida-universitybudget-cuts-20120306_1_budget-proposal-cuts-next-school-year-universities) 5. Sets Up to be Subprime Disaster Part Deux. Forbes. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2012/06/04/student-loan-bubble-sets-up-to-besubprime-disaster-part-deux/)) 6. Sallie Mae Lobbying Profile. Center for Responsive Politics. (http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientsum.php?id=D000022253&year=2012) 7. Investigation Reveals Depth of Chick-fil-a’s ties to Anti-Gay Causes. Equality Matters. (http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201103220005
8. US Department of Health and Human Services. (http://aspe.hhs.gov/POVERTY/10poverty.shtml)
Student Labor Action Project (SLAP)
The Student Labor Action Project is a joint initiative of Jobs with Justice and the United States Student Association that engages students in social and economic justice campaigns.
SLAP supports the growing student movement for economic justice by: - Making links between campus and community organizing. - Fighting for education as a right, including the promotion of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented students. - Providing skills training to build lasting student organization. - Developing campaigns that win concrete victories for working families. Come Join the Fight!! Mondays @ 4:30 Student Union Rm 220