Students rally against tuition fees, student debts

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Students shut down Dean Keeton, Guadalupe Street, and 21st Street as they marched in protest against the current minimum wage, student debt, and tuition fees. The rally was part of the national #MillionStudentMarch movement.
Photo Credit: Thalia Juarez | Daily Texan Staff

Students chanted and carried signs that said “education should not be a debt sentence” as they rallied against tuition fees and student debts on Thursday afternoon.

Members of the rally marched through campus and addressed eliminating tuition fees in public universities, canceling student debts, raising minimum wage to $15 an hour and prohibiting guns in classrooms. The rally, part of the national #MillionStudentMarch movement, was organized by the Society for Cultural Unity, along with other student organizations.

Mohammed Nabulsi, a second year law student and one of the rally’s speakers, said the priority of this rally is the needs of black students due to their low representation on campus.

“The purpose of this protest is that members of this community — students of color, predominantly poor students — are feeling the increasing pressure that they’re not welcome here,” Nabulsi said. “The idea is that we as a community are inextricably linked, [as] students of color, but also that we’re the greatest victims.”

Humanities senior Hirrah Barlas, who helped plan the event, said high tuition fees contribute to racial and economic inequalities on campus.

“When other students choose to look the other way, that’s kind of stemming from the privilege that they have,” Barlas said.

“I’m not a black student and I’ll never understand how difficult it is to be a black student at UT, but it’s crucial that we all stand together in solidarity.”

Barlas said Student Government has not responded to the pressing needs of minority students.

“For our tuition campaign, it’s been kind of difficult getting the Student Government to back us up,” Barlas said.

SG Vice President Rohit Mandalapu said they are working with UT administrators to recognize challenges that impede the growth of diversity on campus.

“Increase in tuitions hurts minority students disproportionately,” Mandalapu said.

Edwin Dorn, professor and former dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, said he opposes eliminating tuitions at public universities.

According to Dorn, free tuition would actually put students with low socioeconomic status at a disadvantage. Assuming overall costs of college education stay the same, the portion of costs currently covered by tuitions would have to be obtained elsewhere, for example by raising the sales tax, Dorn said.

“We would be asking all Texas taxpayers, including workers whose children have relatively little chance of being admitted to UT, to help pay for a free education for wealthy kids,” Dorn said. “That’s perverse. A better solution is to use means-tested financialaid packages.”