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A History of Protest: Students Act Out Against Rising Fees

London student protests on December 9th. Photo attribution to judyboo on flickr.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

December 22, 2010

A History of Protest: Students Act Out Against Rising Fees
Today, students in Rome took to the streets in protest of cuts to education spending. The riots were rumored to resemble last week’s, which were the worst the city has seen in 30 years. However, reports articulate that the protests were more tame this time around. Over a week ago, protesters were torching cars, attacking banks and shops and setting up burning barricades, according to the financialtimes.com. Also, two weeks ago, students in London made global headlines as they protested against the increase in university fees. Some student activists went so far as to attack the car carrying Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, breaking a window and dousing the vehicle with paint. While not garnering the same attention as Rome and London, 17 students were arrested in Puerto Rico on December 20th during student protests of rising fees, reports The Huffington Post. Some students suffered broken bones and other minor injuries. The following video of the police occupation was found on YouTube via The Huffington Post:

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Just days ago in the US, another sort of protest took place over a 5% tuition increase at City University of New York (CUNY) schools. Rather than physical protest, students quietly walked to City Hall and filed a lawsuit, according to The New York Times. But American protests over rising college costs haven’t always been so peaceful.

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In 2009, students at UC Berkeley organized a sit-in when university fees increased by 32% and 900 university employees were laid off, a story that was covered by Fastweb. Students snuck into a classroom the night before, blocked all access to the room and refused to leave throughout the entire next day. Eventually, the 41 students were arrested. But why don’t students protest against the annual average 5.6% increase in college prices, reported by the College Board? Why just these sporadic pockets of frustration? Mark Kantrowitz weighs in: “I believe that protests erupt when the increase violates expectations…we’ve gotten used to tuition increasing 2% to 3% faster than inflation, so the normal big annual increases don’t stir up a hornet's nest.” He adds, “But when the increase is in the double digits, especially when the cost increases by thousands of dollars, it catches more attention.”

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As Italian students continue to protest today, The National Campaign Against Cuts and Fees and the Education Activist Network in Britain are currently organizing the next march for lower fees for January 29th, according to The Guardian.

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