Rally against rising tuition costs, featuring U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, draws a diverse crowd

Tuition and student fees keep increasing, and the Graduate Teaching Fellow Federation (GTFF) won’t stand for it – but they need students to help stem the tide.

That was the message broadcast by the assortment of GTFF staffers and volunteer speakers at the EMU Amphitheater Wednesday, to an onlooking crowd of students, their spouses and the odd campus staff member. Though modest in scope, the rally featured plenty of signs decrying tuition hikes and increasing incidental fees, and a small but vocal group of mostly graduate students and their spouses led chants.

One member of this core group was Dana Rognlie,@@*[email protected]@ vice-president of member communications within the GTFF and one of the coordinators of the rally. Though fortunate enough to avoid the increasingly expensive student debt afflicting graduate students, she feels rallies like this are essential for her less-fortunate peers and her undergraduate students.

“I see it in the eyes of my students. They have to work 40 hours a week to cover tuition,” she said about some of her more financially challenged pupils, explaining that the impact of their dual responsibilities on her ability to teach them effectively was profound.

She also added that the chronic underfunding of the university system also led to a sizable portion of the graduate teaching fellow population to be paid less than minimum wage.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, guest speaking at the rally, echoed her sentiment, arguing that at the very least, affordable federal student loans should be made to all students, including graduate students. He also thinks that it’s an easily remedied situation.

“A one percent addition to the taxes of people who earn over $350,000 a year would pay for the low-interest rates forever for national direct student loans,” DeFazio said.

“These people are already paying a lot less in taxes than they were in the Clinton era,” he continued, referring to the feasibility of the tax increase on the higher income bracket. “They’ve already made it, and they made by virtue — probably — of a good education.”

Though in many ways geared toward graduate students, courtesy of being organized by the GTFF, there were more than a few undergraduate students in attendance as well, and could sympathize with the message. Roslyn Braun,@@*[email protected]@ a freshman from California, welcomes the chance to hear the speakers present.

“It’s a topic I have not thought about a lot, and it’s just interesting to hear about,” she said

However, she also thinks that it’s difficult for students like herself to really educate themselves about it.

“It’s thought provoking, but it’s a difficult topic because we’re so busy paying and going to school. We don’t really have time to think about costs going forward.”

CORRECTION: The Emerald misstated a comment made by Graduate Teaching Fellow and event coordinator Dana Rognlie. Rognlie’s said that graduate students are paid at or below the poverty line, not below minimum wage. The Emerald regrets the error.

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Keegan Clements-Housser

Keegan Clements-Housser