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Students at Cal State L.A. and other schools protest budget cuts

March 1, 2012 | 12:19 pm

 At Cal State Los Angeles, about 300 students marched through campus blowing whistles and chanting  "no cuts, no fees, education should be free."

At a rally in front of the campus bookstore, the raucous group hoisted signs that read "Stop Privatization" and "Defend Public Education."

Students booed a picture of Gov. Jerry Brown and called the California State University Board of Trustees a "board of thieves," demanding a rollback of administrative pay.

The protest was one of many at colleges and universities around the state Thursday. Students demonstrated against budget cuts and increasing tuition.

At UC Santa Cruz, about 200 demonstrators blocked vehicle traffic from entering the sprawling campus. A motorist tried to drive through the crowd and struck several people, although no one was seriously injured, a campus spokesman said.

The driver and a passenger were being questioned by police but had not been arrested pending further investigation, according to UC Santa Cruz spokesman James Burns.

Meanwhile, some professors have canceled classes or decided to hold them outdoors or off campus in sympathy with the protests, which is allied with the Occupy Wall Street movement.  More classes may be canceled because some professors and students who live off-campus are having trouble getting to school because of the demonstrators, Burns said. But he said authorities would not attempt to open the campus entrances with any mass arrests.

Back at Cal State Los Angeles, Sandy Tea said that despite qualifying for financial aid, she and her family can barely keep up with rising tuition and other education costs.

"My father is unemployed and I worry that if fees continue to increase I won't be able to stay in school," said Tea, 18, a freshman majoring in child development.

"They are really being unfair to us," Tea said, speaking of the governor, legislature and trustees. "They are in an uncomfortable position, but we students are losing our chances."

Senior Nicholas Benko said class cuts have delayed his graduation by a quarter. And because he doesn't qualify for financial aid, he works two jobs to afford tuition and other expenses.

"I'm getting into debt because of school all in the hopes there will be a job out there," said Benko, 32, who is studying to become a teacher. "I'm sick and tired of all the state's money problems being put on the backs of me and other students. It's sad that we no longer value education."

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-- Carla Rivera and Larry Gordon

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