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'Day of action' highlights education woes

In California and across the US, students and faculty protested tuition hikes and cuts to education funding in a national 'day of action.'

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Students and supporters rallied against funding cuts to higher education at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. on Thursday.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

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The national day of action student rallies that began in California and have spread nationwide to protest cuts in education used whatever means possible Thursday – from strikes to sit-ins.

But one fact remains: "The real problem is that the state is broke. No amount of demonstrating will change that fact,” says Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College in Northfield Minnesota.

What the demonstrations can do is raise consciousness and perhaps begin to pressure cash-strapped states into thinking innovatingly about funding higher education.

“It’s yet another reality check,” says Jessica Levinson, political reform director for the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies. “I'm not sure if the protests will be effective, but they likely will garner some media attention, and for that reason will accomplish at least some goals.”

The crisis is giving voice to those who say drastic reform is needed.

California needs to rethink the way it administers higher education, says William G. Tierney, Director of the Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis at the University of Southern California.

“Do we really need nine research universities?” he asks. “The student’s education should come first.” He says the four-year college degree could be consolidated into three, and that more administrative savvy is needed to make sure classes are available for the thousands of students who have had to stay in school for five and even six years because they can’t get the classes they need to graduate. And he says the online education world needs to be explored since it has made so much progress over the past ten years.

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