It's apparently big news this morning that 2,000 surveyed students at California State University Northridge are not cool with their tuition rising while their financial aid does not.
They are in fact so not cool with this trend — dubbed “squeezed from all sides” by researchers — that they have begun showing signs of a phenomenon known as stress, in which their “grades, their motivation, and their mental and physical health” are thrown into disarray. Symptoms include depression, “psychic pain” and “constant fear.”
(One shining CSUN face, President Jolene Koester, was not included in the survey — though at $300,000 a year, we're guessing she's a bit more equipped to handle the immense stress that must come of overseeing 35,000 stressed-out students.)
The UCLA Civil Rights Project report has some super dark moments:
Many of these students are trying hard to be responsible family members, students, and citizens, working as much as they can and studying hard, trying to help support parents and siblings while also trying to meet personal educational and career goals. But it is clear that many are stressed far beyond a healthy level. Some of the students wrote what could only be described as cries for help. Some are being pushed beyond their ability to cope with the stress. And, of course, mental health services, even if they could take the time from work and classes to receive them, are being cut back too.
The elephant in the room is Governor Jerry Brown's bloody new state budget proposal, which guts higher education to much more gaping extremes than Schwarzenegger's ever did.
The California State University system alone is facing $500 million in new cuts — same as the more exclusive University of California system, but affecting 23 campuses instead of the UC's 10, and impacting double the students.
Oftentimes the more prestigious public-university system attracts more fuss — perhaps for its legacy of highly publicized, big-money research — but CSUs and California Community Colleges are the true core of higher education in the Golden State, serving a population of about 3.5 million.
Forcing these students to pay more for less — during the Great Recession, no less — is not, according to the report, the way to win the future, as a certain POTUS might put it.
Or, in the words of UCLA researchers: “The choices are grim. Either we develop the talent of our young people or we decline. There is no easy answer in this difficult time, but we all need to listen carefully to the struggling students who are the state's future.”
But as Brown would say, “If not you, who?”
Stressed-out student quotes include:
One writes of “extreme depression every day ever since last year. Finding it hard to stay motivated in school.”
“I cannot get into classes I need. I don't have time to do homework because I have to work. These kinds of problems make me agitated, depressed, and confused.”
“Some days I feel absolutely awful. I work hard and I'm afraid of getting sick or of any other 'unforeseen' difficulty coming up because I'm afraid I won't be able to handle things.”
“My parents are also both sick and we no longer have medical insurance. I'm in constant fear that they'll die. I work the maximum hours at work and take classes in the evening. I'm usually tired from beging awake since early in the morning, so I tend to doze off in class … or I have to be in a constant battle to stay awake.”
Wow. Has our West Coast intellectual paradise really been reduced to this? Please share your thoughts. And if you get a chance, mosey on over to the San Francisco Chronicle's database of CSU officials who make more than $100,000 per year, while students apparently stress and starve themselves to death. (Fast fact: There are 2,786 such six-figure hotshots throughout the system, and 199 at CSU Northridge alone.)
Hang in there, guys. Budget cuts build character.