Our early twenties are often seen as the time in life in which we build the foundations of our future. But for me, my twenties have been mostly a struggle of survival.
I’m a UCLA college student taking a break so I can raise money to pay for tuition, which will likely increase if Californians don’t pass Proposition 30 on November 6. This ballot initiative would temporarily increase taxes on the top wage earners in the state to raise $6 to 9 billion for the first year alone, which would go toward a fund accessible for education.
I grew up the third child of five in a second-generation Filipino immigrant family. My goal always has been to be the first person in my family to graduate from a four-year university. Even though I graduated high school with a 4.2 GPA, I decided to save money and attended community college. From the time I started college, I had been working various part-time jobs to pay for school. My parents chipped in to help pay whenever they could, but they did not know what to expect out of post-secondary education in the United States. After I finished community college, I got my acceptance letter to my dream school, UCLA, but one of their first reactions was, “We don’t have the money.”
I was on my own. I moved out of our house and took out a private loan in my name to attend my first year as a physical anthropology major.
This is where the reality of the economic times hit me. At work, I noticed many co-workers also held second jobs. My supervisor had to stop attending school for a year to work full time to pay for his last year of college. During that time, he lived on a friend’s couch. I had another friend who lived out of his car, took showers at the school gym, and slept in the library or the department lounge just to save money. I realized how common it was for a college student to juggle two to three jobs, including an internship, to afford college and stay on track for graduation.
As for me, there often were times where I could not attend test prep reviews because I had to work. My grades suffered because I didn’t have enough time to study. I wondered what my test score would have been if I didn’t have to work and support myself through college.
And in a decision that made things even more difficult, UC Regents almost doubled tuition fees during my fourth year. I paid $3,800 in tuition that fall quarter. Three years earlier, I paid about $2,400 per quarter.
I walked in my graduation ceremony in 2011, but only later realized that the UC system was demanding more units from me even though I finished all my general education requirements (IGETC) and all my major coursework. I couldn’t afford attending college longer and decided to leave school and work in order to save money and finish my degree.
Now as a working adult who hopes to return to school one day, it is becoming harder to even attend community college on the side due to an overpopulation of students fighting to get a space in a required class. Over the past five years, community college rates have more than doubled from $20 per unit to $46. When will there ever be stability in our public education system?
Shortly after leaving UCLA, I took on a communications internship with the Asian Pacific American Legal Center that later turned into employment. Working at APALC, I became involved with APALC's “Your Vote Matters! 2012” campaign as a phone banker. It is a campaign to empower and mobilize API community members to exercise their voice at the ballot box, with a push to support Proposition 30 in the November 6th elections.
APALC, which is a nonpartisan organization, supports Proposition 30. What makes this initiative even more unique is that the legislature cannot touch this money – it is to be allocated to K-12 and community college systems – and it comes with an independent audit every year to ensure the destination of these funds. The audit is also open to the public so that parents and voters can view how the money is spent.
Without this proposition, schools will continue to cut required classes, after-school programs, scholarships and grants. UC, CSU, and community college students will face further tuition hikes. Similar cuts will be seen at all levels of education regardless whether it’s public school,
Please consider voting yes on Proposition 30, which will help re-hire teachers, keep police officers in our neighborhoods, and fund our schools. The bill is a temporary tax that will achieve results that will last for years to come by supporting the futures of youth like me.
-- Tiffany Panlilio is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Legal Advocate at APALC. You can follow her on Twitter @battlestar13.