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Students rally in Sacramento

March 22, 2010 |  5:44 pm

Thousands of college students and faculty rallied Monday in Sacramento in support of higher education,  another in a series of recent actions throughout the state designed to highlight the effects of budget cuts.

The demonstration was organized by the Student Senate for California Community Colleges and drew about 5,000 participants who marched from a ballpark in West Sacramento to the north steps of the state Capitol to protest fee increases, canceled classes and employee layoffs at community colleges, California State University and the University of California.

Several legislators spoke to the crowd, as did community college Chancellor Jack Scott, who thanked the students for making their voices heard and encouraged them to continue lobbying the Legislature and governor to support education funding.

The state’s 112 community colleges — which make up the largest system of higher education in the nation — sustained about $520 million in budget cuts in 2009-10. Student speakers shared personal stories about the effect of budget cuts and vowed to continue putting pressure on lawmakers.

“The message was to invest in education; students will pull California out of this recession,” said Reid Milburn, a history major at Sacramento City College and president of the student senate group. “But our second message is that with almost 3.5 million students in all three segments of higher education, it’s up to us to continue to advocate for education and not just come up here for one day, for one big march.”

Earlier this month, students and faculty at more than 100 campuses in California and across the nation held mostly peaceful protests opposing education cuts.

In a statement after Monday’s rally, California Secretary of Education Bonnie Reiss said:

“At a time of difficult budget cuts, the governor’s budget proposal prioritizes education and protects higher education from further cuts and fee increases. We must do everything possible to ensure that every student wishing to pursue higher education has the access and the resources necessary to earn a degree and build a brighter future. I urge the Legislature to listen to these students and adopt a budget that shares the governor’s commitment to fully fund education in the state.”

-- Carla Rivera