At the GSPHE July Mobilizing Conference 2011, students and allies from across Georgia converged at Georgia State University in Atlanta. At the conference, we identified statewide concerns that will guide the efforts of our coalition as we push forward for more accessible and affordable higher learning in our state, our nation, and our world:
1. We demand the repeal of HB 326, the bill which severely limits the availability of HOPE scholarships and grants to those who need them most. We also see the necessity of an income-cap to prevent HOPE from redistributing lottery revenues from the poorest to the wealthiest Georgians.
2. We demand the repeal of USG Policy 4.1.6., which currently denies undocumented students admission to five of Georgia’s public universities. We believe that access to higher education is a right and that it should be available to all students regardless of immigration status.
3. We demand an end to all cuts to the state’s higher education budget. With no effort to find alternatives to austerity, there is no reason why the higher education budget receives endless cuts. While G-Tech continues to give less than the legally suggested amount of lottery revenue to the HOPE scholarship, and while corporations continue to receive tax breaks, we demand that our state’s priorities shift from corporations to education. We call for fully-funded public education in Georgia.
4. We demand an end to all tuition and fee hikes. The University System of Georgia claims that tuition and fee hikes are in response to the economic crisis and high student enrollment. While tuition has increased by nearly 50% and fees have increased by 87% since 2007, the salaries of college presidents and vice presidents have increased up to 30%, and our campuses have built lavish dorms and rec centers while the academics of our schools are plummeting. The USG is reshaping our relationship with higher education, moving us from “students” to “consumers.” This demonstrates the USG’s inept and inexcusable practices.
5. We demand a living wage for all university employees. All employees that work in our schools deserve an equitable wage to live with dignity and provide for themselves and their families. Healthcare and pensions should be available and affordable for all employees in the University System of Georgia. Students and workers should not have to bear the brunt of cuts to higher education.
6. We demand democratic decision-making power by the students. Our schools should be democratically structured, meaning direct participation from below as a basis for decision making processes. Though students are the vast majority in the bodies of our colleges and universities, we are granted the least amount of decision-making power in our schools and the University System of Georgia. Increasingly, student concerns are being misrepresented or stifled by the corporate interests of the Board of Regents and university upper-administration. In light of the recent ban on undocumented students and tuition and fee hikes, the Board of Regents have made it clear that they do not have students’ best interests in mind.
We call on all students and allies to come together in planning a collaborative day of action this November, in line with the “Global Weeks of Action” in defense of emancipatory, public education.