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Members of the Students for Quality Education protest against the rise of education fees in front of the Kennel Bookstore on May 2, 2016. The tombstone and coffin represent the death of free education. (Khone Saysamongdy/The Collegian)

Students statewide mourn free higher education

Dressed in all black, Students for a Quality Education marched through the Fresno State campus Monday chanting its demands from a loudspeaker. Their message was “free higher education is possible.”

The demostraters met at the Free Speech Area and proceeded to march around campus, which eventually led to the Kennel Bookstore, where they gathered around a black casket.

“The California Master Plan for higher education, passed in 1960, stipulated that education in the public university system should be tuition free in order to make degrees accessible regardless of socio-economic background,” Kelly Caplan, a women’s studies major at Fresno State, shouted through the loud speaker as students passed by.

The “funeral service” was held to mourn the death of free higher education, push the focus of hiring high-paid administrators instead of prioritizing student learning, and to educate students on campus.

“Today we are doing a funeral procession, also in conjunction with May Day events that are happening around the country and around the state,” Caplan said. “Students for Quality Education state wide are doing different types of events on their campuses, pretty similar to ours, this is our version of the same thing. We’re here in solidarity. In an attempt to educate the public the organization relentlessly informed students on campus well into the afternoon.”

Chico State, San Francisco State, CSU Stanislaus, Cal Poly, CSULA and Fresno State all participated in the event to raise awareness of the tuition increases in higher education over the past generations and those to come.  

“I want people to know that higher education was one day free, fully funded by the state for 18 years and throughout the years it has been privatized,” said Cecilia Knadler, a women’s studies and criminology major at Fresno State.

Students for Quality Education (SQE) seeks to motivate students to join them in their fight to end what they call illegal student tuition.

Flyers with facts and statistics were also handed out at the event, which point out that the CSU basic tuition fees since 2000-01 to 2016 have increased 283 percent.

“We want free education for our students because they keep increasing tuition and I hope people learn that education can be free,” said Vanessa Gomez, a psychology major at Fresno State.