Student protesters continue to call for tuition freeze following Prop. 206 campus worker exemption

Some ASU students want a full tuition freeze, especially since they aren't getting the minimum wage increase

In light of a recent tuition hike for this academic year, some groups of students have been pushing for change.

Members of Students for a Democratic Society and United Students Against Sweatshops at ASU are campaigning harder for a tuition freeze. 

Both groups began protesting for a tuition freeze earlier this year, then the delayed increase of on-campus workers from the minimum wage increase under Proposition 206 started, fueling their desire for lower tuition. 

Prop 206, also known as the Arizona Minimum Wage and Paid Time Off Initiative, raised the minimum wage from $8.05 to $10.

While ASU said it has a plan to increase the minimum wage, the University hasn't set a timeline or said how it will implement the change. 

Some students are upset because they want the new minimum wage and have seen state universities like UA already present a plan to raise the wage. 

A University statement said half of the student workers already make more than the new minimum wage and for the other half, "ASU is working on a solution to bring their pay in line with the new minimum wage set by Proposition 206."

However, the UA will be increasing the minimum wage as of Jul. 3, 2017, according to UA’s Human Resources department.

The HR department also said the responsibility of funding will come from the individual departments, and the reason for the July delay is because they “believe this is a fiscally responsible approach” that will give them time to include the increase in its budgets and planning.

The Arizona Board of Regents approved the tuition and fee rates for the three main Arizona universities: ASU, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University. 

According to a press release from ABOR, ASU had the lowest in-state tuition increase of the three universities at 1.5 percent for the current school year. This is less than half of UA's in-state tuition increase at 3.2 percent.

Additionally, ASU's nonresident tuition increase rose 4 percent, which is significantly less than UA's tuition increase at 7.2 percent.

President of USAS of ASU Felina Rodriguez, a junior studying political science and Spanish literature and culture, campaigned for Prop. 206 before the 2016 election, organizing marches and collecting signatures.

After the 2016 election, Arizona’s minimum wage increased to $10 per hour, but Rodriguez said she will continue to fight until it reaches $12.

Rodriguez said the exemption from the minimum wage increase reflects poorly on ASU because it claims to be an affordable university.

“They are denying their students the right to a higher wage and getting more income,” she said. “It’s limiting a lot of students who have to work their way through college.”

Rodriguez said that if UA can give its on-campus workers the new minimum wage, there’s no excuses for ASU.

“It’s really absurd that ASU is saying they can’t give students an increase in wages,” she said. “They’re both public universities."

Rodriguez said she has also been campaigning for a full tuition freeze similar to the one that occurred in the 2014-15 school year which was lifted because ASU started remodeling Sun Devil Stadium and building the new Student Pavilion.

Rodriguez also said the exemption from Prop. 206 increases her desire for a tuition freeze.

“It shows that ASU has no intention of standing with its students,” she said. “It shows poorly on the administration that has even told us that they understand students’ need to work.”

Rodriguez said she will campaign even harder for the tuition freeze because ASU isn’t giving its student workers the two extra dollars per hour.

“With everything that is happening, you need to realize that prices are increasing due to inflation,” she said. “The cost of living is increasing, and it’s not because people are being paid more. It’s because they can’t afford to pay.”

Fallon Leyba, a sophomore studying creative writing, politics and law, is the chair for the Students for a Democratic Society, which is the organization running the campaign for the full tuition freeze.

Leyba said she thinks UA’s efforts to provide the new minimum wage for its students reflect poorly on ASU’s administration.

“Clearly, other universities are able to do it,” she said. “It’s clearly feasible if U of A can do it. I think at this point there’s no excuses left.”

Leyba said she thinks student workers should be considered workers as well, and she wants to know the University’s explanation of the exemption.

“I would love to hear the reasoning for it because I haven’t,” she said. “I think it would be great for the students to hear an actual answer of why some of them are denied an increase in the minimum wage.”

Leyba said the University should accommodate its students because it is a public university and the inevitable tuition hikes are just “indicative of a deeper problem.”

Noah Briggs, a senior double majoring in economics and philosophy and minoring in political sciences, is one of the founders of the Society. He said Prop. 206 is long overdue.

“I don’t want to live in a society where folks who do very necessary work have to work two or three jobs just to get by,” he said.

Briggs said ASU stating that it's not bound by Prop. 206 is just more evidence that ASU isn’t concerned about its students and the community’s economic well-being.

“It says in their charter that they are, and they consistently state that they are, but actions speak louder than words,” he said.

As one of the protestors for the tuition freeze, Briggs said his aspiration for a tuition freeze was fairly high to begin with, but as the cost of living increases, he thinks the more he and the other organizations protesting can do on campus the better.

“I’m committed to doing everything I can to get a tuition freeze no matter what exogenous things occur,” he said.


Reach the reporter at anbuechl@asu.edu or follow @alexa_buechler on Twitter.

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