NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBS 2) — Angry over the high cost of college, a group of Rutgers University students have been protesting inside the administration offices for more than 24 hours – and they said they’re not leaving until the school president does something about the skyrocketing tuition.
Angry over rising tuition, students protested outside administration offices and tried to get food to nine students inside. The students began staging a sit-in Wednesday morning, demanding to meet with University President Dr. Richard McCormick, reports CBS 2’s Christine Sloan.
The students, with several more students working in shifts to maintain a presence outside, have taken occupancy inside the Old Queens administration building on the New Brunswick campus.
They want Dr. McCormick to advocate on their behalf for a reduction in fees, and a one-year tuition freeze.
“I have to take out personal, student loans. I don’t get any financial aid, so it’s going to be extremely difficult to continue school without it,” said student Fatima Agosto.
“Anger that the administration won’t even address our concerns or take us seriously, this is how far we have to go,” sit-in protestor George Casalins said.
Political science major Annabel Pollioni said for many students, attending a state school was no longer the most affordable option.
“I think we’re being cheated with our tuition,” she said.
In a video posted by the Star Ledger, a University official was seen warning the young protesters they face suspension for refusing to leave the building.
McCormick, who’s out of town, does not have the power to freeze tuition. That’s set by the University’s Board of Governors. Nevertheless, school officials said he was considering their demands.
School officials said the students won’t be arrested.
“The longer they stay here, the longer it’ll be before we can resolve this issue,” said Dr. Gregory Blimling, Rutgers Vice President of Student Affairs.
The students said they’re well aware that freezing tuition was beyond President McCormick’s authority, but they’re hoping the sit-in and demonstration will at least convince him to take up their cause.
“The tuition has gone up about $2,000 last year, it’s projected to go up and estimated $1,200 next year,” student Yara Calcano said.
Right now, students who are New Jersey residents pay more than $23,000 for tuition, including room and board.
Protest organizers, who staged a much larger demonstration earlier in April, said they’re prepared to wait for an answer.
“Tuition has risen, actually doubled, in the last ten years. And that’s of grave concern to a lot of students here who are seeking to attend a public university, who actually want an affordable education,” said organizer John Aspray.
“We want to abolish the myth that students are apathetic and don’t care about their education, don’t care about making change. We do care,” said organizer Donggu Yoon.
“We’ve made it clear to them any tuition increase that occurs next year will be very reasonable,” Dr. Blimling said.
After surviving on soda, seltzer, and bagels, the majority of protesters said they were ready to continue making their case for as long as it takes.
While school officials claimed the students – some huddled in sleeping bags, with only a window view of the outside – had been fed, protestors outside were getting restless. They said the students hadn’t had a real meal, and that campus police weren’t allowing friends to send in food.
“They’re not respecting our needs this much, that we’re here trying to make a stand and the administration isn’t listening to us,” sit-in protestor Renee Coppola said. “They can’t even listen to our demands within the building for food and our belongings.”
The students said they were using fans to keep cool in the hot offices, and that they’ll stay there until their demands are met.
School officials said the president has met with students in the past, and that he’ll be happy to meet with them when he returns Thursday evening.
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